Council plans cuts and investments

Peter Box after announcing budget proposals' 'LOCATION:  Wakefield Town Hall
Peter Box after announcing budget proposals' 'LOCATION: Wakefield Town Hall

MILLIONS of pounds worth of savings will be made from Wakefield Council’s annual budget as the authority continues to tackle government cuts.

Around £22m has been cut from the 2012-2013 budget – and 50 more jobs are set to go – as council chiefs try to make savings of £71m by 2015.

At a press conference on Monday, council leader Peter Box and chief executive Joanne Roney said frontline services would still be protected and council tax would be frozen for a second year.

But cuts will include reducing opening hours for swimming pools, increasing some fees and charges in social care, and introducing charges to car parking at sports, leisure and cultural facilities.

Ms Roney said: “There will be some service cuts, it’s impossible to have budget savings without having some service reductions. But there’s about £10m worth of saving in the £22m target that are nothing to do with service cuts.

“And in terms of job losses, we estimate there will be no more than 50 people leaving the authority and we want to make sure that all those people are voluntary rather than compulsory.”

Council chiefs said they had renegotiated their waste PFI contract to save £4.17m, a further £3m in managing funds differently and £1.25m in reorganising adult and children’s services.

Despite cuts, council bosses are also pledging to invest in the future by spending an extra £1m a year on improving the district’s roads and spending almost half a million pounds on new street cleaning equipment.

Coun Box said: “It’s about priorities. When I speak to people there are two issues that they talk about. One is roads and the other is that the streets are clean.”

He added that following the successful transfer of town markets to community leaders and parish or town councils, the council would continue to work to secure the future of other services in the same way, which could include libraries and even sports facilities.

He said: “It’s possible sports and leisure facilities could go the same way as markets, but we’re open to working with outside groups if these services matter to local people.”

Speaking to the Express after the meeting, the council’s Conservative group leader Coun Mark Crowther said he did not intend to challenge the budget which will be discussed at a meeting of full council on March 1.

He said: “It would be pedantic and inappropriate for us to pick through the budget and start arguing big issues. I don’t think that would be right.

“Generally speaking we will find ourselves supporting what the ruling group are proposing – I don’t think we have an alternative.”