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Walsall Council cuts: Hundreds of jobs axed, nine libraries closing and council tax rise on the way

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Walsall Council will axe hundreds of jobs and nine libraries, while raising council tax by nearly five per cent, it emerged today.

The council will also be relocating the local history centre into the town's central library, while some school crossing patrols will be axed.

However the future of the New Art Gallery is set to be secured along with the leather museum and the maintenance of cricket pitches and bowling greens.

The new plans were announced at a press conference at Walsall Council House today after residents in the borough had their say on the original proposals in recent months.

Originally the council proposed to shut 15 of the borough's 16 libraries, leaving just central library open which would also incorporate the leather museum and local history centre.

Walsall Council say hundreds of jobs will go alongside a range of cuts at the authority

However, six of the 15 at risk libraries are now to remain open, with the leather museum also staying put.

Aldridge, Bloxwich, Brownhills, Darlaston and Willenhall libraries have all been saved, while Streetly library will be community run.

A total of 420 jobs at the authority are to be axed through compulsory and voluntary redundancies.

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However 139 of the posts to be cut are already vacant.

Council tax will be rising an extra per cent in the borough, with residents facing a 4.99 per cent hike on their bill.

New Walsall Art Gallery - councillors have pledged to secure the future of the venue amid cutbacks

Originally the rise was to be 3.99 per cent but central government has allowed the council to raise their tax by an extra one per cent provided it is ring fenced for social care.

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The council tax on a band D property in Walsall will now be £1,744.04, including precepts from West Midlands Police and West Midlands Fire Service.

Other cuts include the loss of crossing patrols for category two schools that have been without a crossing patrol for at least six months.

These are all part of cost-cutting measures for the council as it looks to save £86 million by 2020.

However there was positive news for residents as the Labour/Liberal Democrat administration said it 'had listened' to people and amended or scrapped more than a quarter of its original proposals.

The future of the New Art Gallery is to be saved by the private sector, with the council looking at selling naming rights and advertising space - although the name of the gallery is to remain the same.

A deal with Wolverhampton University is also still on the table, with an announcement due on this and private sector investment imminently.

The council has also submitted a bid for £3.5m of funding from Arts Council England.

The Forest Arts Centre will not see any cuts in 2017/18 while the council will also to continue to maintain cricket pitches and bowling greens in the borough - something it originally proposed to scrap.

Plans to stop cleaning markets after they have closed has also been scrapped, while seven front line posts connected to street cleaning are being reinstated.

All these proposals will have to be approved at a full council meeting in February. However, providing all the Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors turn up, the coalition will have enough votes to push their plans through regardless of opposition from Conservative, UKIP and Independent councillors.

More detailed plans on cuts and savings are to be announced later this week.

For further details and reaction pick up a copy of tomorrow's Express & Star.

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