Walsall Council chief: We've listened to the public

"We've listened to what Walsall people have had to say and this has helped us make informed decisions."

Walsall Council chief: We've listened to the public

Those were the words of Walsall Council leader Sean Coughlan after announcing proposed changes to the budget during a press conference.

Bosses say the revised budget, which cuts almost £1.6million from the £86million in savings the council needs to make over the next four years, will mean fewer job losses.

Under the amendments proposed yesterday, plans to cut funding to community associations across the borough have been axed.

Plans to charge £28 for garden waste collections have been dropped after 70 per cent of people who took part in the consultation said they would not pay.

The amount of money being cut from grass cutting, parks and grounds maintenance in the next financial year has been reduced from £362,708 to £135,383.

The council has also done a U-turn on plans to shut Sneyd Water Activities Centre and the Aldridge Airport Outdoor Activities Centre. Both will remain open.

At Walsall New Art Gallery, no jobs will be lost but vacant posts will not be filled, saving the council £5,367. It will also not have its opening hours slashed over the winter.

Fallings Heath Respite Centre in Darlaston will no longer close and proposed cuts announced last year of £477,732 to the street cleaning service will reduce to £226,747.

Councillor Coughlan said: "We need to save some £86million over the next four years. I always said this would be very different and some of the decisions will be unpalatable.

"That's why I wanted a proper consultation with as many residents and businesses as possible giving feedback.

"Many residents support our decisions and they recognise the need to reduce spending. They have also given us some valuable ideas for how we could do things differently.

"We do recognise some of our proposals may not be popular. That's why we listened carefully to people. For several proposals, where this would cause difficulties for local people we have now decided not to go ahead."

The recommendations to remove and amend proposals in the budget amounts to £1,574,679 over two years and is being funded through a combination of replacement savings, use of alternative funding and cash from reserves.

It will be discussed at full cabinet on February 4.

The council is still ploughing ahead with plans to close eight libraries - despite thousands of users signing petitions against the move.

The closure date of five libraries - Pheasey, Beechdale, Walsall Wood, Walsall South and Streetly - has been deferred by three months, Councillor Coughlan said.

They will now close on July 1. Three others in Rushall, New Invention and Blakenall will close after that.

Councillor Coughlan added: "Most people do not want the council to close libraries.

He said the amendments to the budget meant less jobs would be lost, but he was unable to put a figure on the amount. Originally the council said 487 jobs will be lost under the proposed budget cut. Of those, 112 are already vacant posts.

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