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Sandwell councillors turn down pay increase as they 'weather the storm' of funding cuts

Sandwell | News | Published:

Councillors in Sandwell said they thought it would be 'inappropriate' to take a 2.2 per cent pay increase in the midst of cuts and redundancies.

The decision to turn it down was made at this week's budget meeting, along with the freezing of council tax for a fifth year.

Councillors said they wanted to stand by residents in face a massive cuts in funding from Government.

Leader Darren Copper said members would not have felt comfortable accepting the pay rise on the table in line with other public sector bodies at a time when so many families in Sandwell were struggling to make ends meet.

"Members of this council agreed not to accept a 2.2 per cent pay increase. We feel it would be inappropriate given austerity measures being forced on the people of this borough by the coalition government," he said.

"I consider it inappropriate in the circumstances to accept when services are being cut and people are being made redundant."

The Government was also attacked over huge reductions in what it gives to the Labour-run council amid suggestions the Midlands had bore the brunt of the cuts.

Deputy leader Steve Eling said the funding cuts were the worst he had ever seen.

The authority has to slash £63 million from its budgets by 2017. Funding from central government has dropped by £122m in the six years to 2015/16.

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Councillor Eling admitted tough decisions had been made but that 'careful and prudent' use of resources had allowed the council to 'weather the storm'.

He said taking sensible decisions such as selling off buildings and cutting agency staff had allowed it to retain services that would otherwise have been lost.

The council had already signed up to a Facing the Future programme of projects which is looking at ways to manage the cuts and find an extra £22m of savings over the next two years.

Community groups will be approached to take over the running of parks and libraries, while limiting the use of front desks are among other proposals that are part of the programme.

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Councillor Eling said: "We have had to take some tough decisions that in better times we wouldn't have taken.

"We have lost some people along the way but it was the choice between that and frontline services.

"We have seen a significant reduction in the number of office buildings, there are now five or six less and we are moving from leased buildings to buying buildings. It made sense when the mortgage payments on the buildings were less than the rent was.

"Sandwell Council will freeze council tax again. Why should the Government penalise the people of Sandwell by taking away a million quid? The half a million pounds we would get would make little difference to the budget."

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