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Residents' opinions sought as council warns frontline services may be cut

Sandwell | News | Published:

Sandwell residents will be asked which council services should be prioritised as a cash-strapped authority braces itself for further cuts.

Officials at Sandwell Council warned even frontline services may not be safe due to the expected cuts in government funding over the next few years.

Under the scheme, services will be ranked in order of priority - meaning if more resources are allocated to one service it will mean cuts to another, lower ranked, service. All departments will be under review - with services including libraries, leisure centres and social care all under threat.

The authority now wants to consult residents - asking them what services they would like to see prioritised.

They will be asked to allocate points to their choices so the ranking can be drawn up by the council.

The consultation exercise is taking place as part of the council's Facing the Future programme.

The programme has already saved the authority £22 million over the current and next financial year, on top of £40 million savings the council is already making.

Plans to extend the programme with £16 million savings to be made in 2017/18 financial year were announced earlier this year.

Deputy leader of the authority Councillor Steve Eling said: "What the consultation will do is create a ranking.

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Steve Eling

"If people choose to prioritise social care for example, then it means the resources to do that will have to be taken from something else.

"What the consultation seeks to do is get residents' views on priorities for spending over the next four years.

"We are facing more budget cuts of that there is no question.

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"Of course every service is a priority for someone, but these measures have to be taken.

"We are not trying to frighten anyone but people need to know how serious the situation we are facing is."

The findings of the consultation are expected to come before the full council in a report early next year.

Officials said meetings would also be held between members of the council and senior officers as part of the process.

Residents will be asked questions in face-to-face interviews, a workshop, a disabled residents workshop and also with a web-based survey.

The Facing the Future programme has seen the council sell off buildings and encourage residents to pay council tax online to save cash.

The authority has seen its government funding drop by more than £130m since 2010.

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