Walsall Council cuts: Campaigners urge councillors to protect services in protest - WATCH
Save our services – that was the call from protesters who gathered outside Walsall Council house as a budget set to drain £86 million out of resources was discussed.
Walsall Council's cabinet members met to give their stamp of approval to the draft budget for 2017 to 2020, which will be debated one last time at a special council meeting on February 23.
Protesters from Walsall Against Cuts campaigned outside the council house which hosted the meeting, calling for the authority to join up with others in a similar position and march outside Westminster to raise awareness of the impact Government cuts are having on towns.
More than a dozen protesters carrying placards including declaring 'save our services' and 'demand Government restore funding' spoke of their dismay in the minutes leading up to the meeting.
Organiser Martin Lynch said: "This is a long, long battle and it doesn't end tonight.
"They need to stand up against the cuts, join up with other councils and councillors who are being asked to do the Government's dirty work for them.
"Just because they have to put together a balanced budget it doesn't mean there is nothing they can do.
"We want them to go to London with other authorities who are in the same position and say we won't do this any more.
"We are not going to let up, we are going to make sure the council listen to us and work with us."
The latest revised budget from Walsall Council, released last week, will see the authority axe hundreds of jobs and nine libraries, while raising council tax by nearly five per cent.
The authority will also relocate the local history centre into the town's central library – and some school crossing patrols will be axed.
However, the future of the New Art Gallery on Gallery Square is set to be secured along with the Leather Museum on Littleton Street West and the maintenance of cricket pitches and bowling greens.
Originally, the council proposed to shut 15 of the borough's 16 libraries, leaving just Central Library on Lichfield Street open which would also incorporate the leather museum and local history centre.
Speaking at the meeting, councillor Sean Coughlan, leader of Walsall Council, said: "There is no pleasure taken in setting out our position, these are cuts that are forced on this council and cuts that have been forced on the council before we came into power.
"It is our responsibility to set a balanced budget and that is something we have done.
"We have listened to what people have told us, which is reflected by the changes in this draft budget from the proposals that were originally put out.
"But the reality is that there difficult decisions to be made and we will not shy away from our responsibility to make those decisions." Councillor Ian Shires said that the authority did what it set out to do in giving people a say on what the budget proposals would include and setting out the stall early as to give everyone a clearer vision of what lies ahead.
He said: "Around 25 per cent of this budget has changed from what we have originally put out and although we could never please everyone, we have put together a budget that has incorporated their concerns and is still balanced."