Budget cuts of £27m - Wakefield Council says services for vulnerable ‘not guaranteed’

Peter Box
Peter Box

Community centres could face closure and hundreds of council staff could lose their jobs under cost-cutting plans revealed by Wakefield Council.

The council must make £27m of savings in 2016/17 in order to balance its budget.

And leader Coun Peter Box has said “almost every service” will be affected.

He said: “In the past we have said that there are some service areas that will be protected and ring fenced. But we cannot maintain that. There will be a wider range of services where people will see a difference.”

A report to the council’s cabinet meeting said it was faced with ceasing some services altogether, while residents were starting to see others “deteriorate”.

The report said: “The council’s over-arching priority within its budget strategies has been to limit the impact of the funding cuts on services for our most vulnerable people and those in need. We would still like to be able to do this, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.

“As the major provider of services for residents of the district, we will, wherever possible, try to ensure services are provided for the most vulnerable, but in the current financial climate we cannot provide any guarantees.”

The council has already had to cut £119m from its budget during the past five years, due to “unprecedented” cuts to its government funding.

It faces another four years of making savings and if the cuts continue, it will have lost around 60 per cent of its government funding between 2011 and 2020.

But Coun Box maintained it would continue to provide “good quality, local services”.

He said: “We are still going to make sure that people’s refuse is collected.

“We are still going to make sure we deal with environmental issues. We have plans to increase leisure services in the south east and five towns.”

“We aren’t just going to sit back and say it is all doom. We want to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down and get on with the job of providing our services.”

As part of its budget, the council is proposing to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent, generating £1.2m.

And it will add a government-recommended two per cent ‘social care precept’ to help address a funding gap for adult social care.

Coun Box said: “Last year, I asked residents and businesses to help us shape our budget around what matters most to them. The feedback has guided our decisions and refocused our priorities.

“It was clear from the budget consultation that the universal services - like bin collections, road repairs, litter clean up and park maintenance - are the services people rely on and value the most, and that they understand the need for these to continue.

“Almost two thirds of the people who took part in the consultation suggested raising council tax.

“We believe this needs to be done, because if we don’t, the effects of the cuts will be even harsher.”

The budget will be discussed by Wakefield Council’s cabinet on February 16 at Castleford Civic Centre from 10.30am. Members of the public are encouraged to attend. The 2016/17 budget will be presented by Coun Box to the meeting of full Council on March 2.