Birmingham & Black Country

Walsall Council consults on cuts or council tax rises

Walsall council offices
Image caption Walsall Council has announced it needs to reduce spending by £18.9m next year

Residents of Walsall are being asked if they would accept a 2% or 4% increase in council tax amid warnings of further job losses.

Walsall Council has announced it needs to save £18.9m next year and wants views on three budget options, two of which include raising council tax.

Without the increase it plans to close Walsall Museum and reduce children's services spending by £500,000.

The cuts are part of an overall five-year budget reduction of £100m.

'More job losses'

Two years ago the council announced 430 redundancies in a bid to save £23.5m.

Facing further budget reductions for 2014-2015, council leader Mike Bird said: "It is clear there will be less money, fewer people and so we'll be able to do less.

"We expect more job losses but it would be wrong to ask us to speculate on a figure."

The council's overall budget for next year is £620m.

Details of how that could be spent have been released based on no increase in council tax. But the council is also asking residents whether they would pay more tax "to protect more services".

A similar consultation by Dudley Council, which borders Walsall, concluded residents would not accept a large increase in council tax.

In Walsall, three options will be put forward for public opinion:

  1. No increase in council tax, with service reductions proposed
  2. A 2% increase in council tax, to generate an extra £1.7m
  3. A 4% increase, to generate an extra £3.4

The third option would trigger a referendum, costing the council around £250,000.

Closures and cuts

Image caption Walsall Museum could close to save the council an estimated £70,000

The council's proposed budget with no council tax increase includes plans to close Walsall Museum, estimated to save £70,000.

It would also reduce the children's services budget by £500,000, with a further £450,000 cut possible after a review of youth support and careers information.

A further £480,000 could be saved by re-negotiating a respite care contract and £500,000 could be taken from the residential care budget.

Almost £300,000 could be cut from family support spending and £165,000 could be raised by increasing charges for bereavement services.

Grants to allotment associations could be cut by 50% to save about £20,000.

Councillor Christopher Towe, portfolio holder for finance, said "tough decisions lie ahead" but the council's priorities lie with helping businesses to create jobs, promoting good health, providing safe environments and supporting children.

The proposals will go before a council cabinet meeting on 23 October and residents are urged to comment before a final decision is made in February.

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