Services to take a hit as Wakefield Council slashes £28m from budget

Coun Peter Box.
Coun Peter Box.

Council tax could rise by five per cent but local services will take another hit as Wakefield Council looks to slash £28m from its budget.

The authority plans to increase charges for people using its bereavement, registrar and sport and leisure services, as well as introducing fees at some car parks currently free.

It is also proposing to save cash by reviewing library facilities, changing bin rounds and cutting back on staff including senior managers.

And it plans to increase council tax bills by 2.99 per cent rise to cover services including bin collection and road maintenance plus a further two per cent precept for adult social care.

Council leader Coun Peter Box said: "Feedback from residents has been invaluable in helping us to identify where we could make changes.

"Having to find £28m savings, on top of the huge amount of money that has already been wiped off our budget, continues to mean that every area of the council will be affected in one way or another.

"However, we have tried to refocus and reduce the impact on the areas people have told us are most important to them.”

The authority, which asked people to have their say on services, said more than £171m has been wiped off its budget since 2010, with eight consecutive years of government cuts.

It said more than 60 per cent of its budget is spent on adults and children's services and the rising cost of adult social care was presenting "a huge challenge".

Coun Box said: “We have a duty and an unwavering commitment to care for the most vulnerable in our district.

“However, the ever growing demand and spiralling costs for adult social care is relentless and the need for the services we provide for children and young people is also rising at an unprecedented rate.

“We know from the consultation that residents recognise the importance of these services and we thank them for their support, especially as many of them may not access these services themselves.

“Despite our best efforts, including putting significant funding from our budget into adult social care every year, there will still be major financial pressures in this area.

“We have already had to make major changes and must continue to find even more different ways of delivering the services that remain.

“Our children and young people services will also have to continue to change and reduce. This is the only way we can carry on delivering the most fundamental services.”

The council sets out some of the savings being proposed as follows:

Start using LED street lights to save money. £230,000

Stop the least effective Sport and Health Improvement Programmes. £150,000

Review of library facilities, mobile and home library services and back office support. £300,000

Change our bin rounds – keep the frequency the same for everyone but use different times of the day and week. £130,000

Closer working with the NHS to bring down the cost of residential services for people with learning difficulties. £100,000

A more efficient highways winter maintenance service, due to improved gritter fleet and improved route planning. £30,000

Reduce commissioned public health service in line with the reduced Public Health Grant. £430,000

Reduction in senior management and other roles. £1,320,000

Reduce the number of our buildings. £130,000

Reduce how much it costs to deliver our services by being more efficient, for example by using more digital technologies. £870,000

It says some of the key proposals to raise money from services include:

Being more commercial in delivering sports and leisure services, including reviewing some services and increasing fees and charges. £370,000

Increasing charges for bereavement services. £120,000

Starting to charge for car parking at some parks. £50,000

Charging developers more for our planning advice. £30,000

Charging people more for wanting to use our planning service. £70,000

Selling our environmental health advice to other organisations. £30,000

Increasing the charges for people using our registrar services. £30,000

Increasing the number of commercial waste customers. £200,000

Maximising opportunities from external funding sources. £480,000

Increasing income from VAT exemption where possible. £400,000

The budget proposal will be presented before Wakefield Council's cabinet on February 13.

A drop-in session for people to have their say on it will be held at Wakefield Town Hall from 10.30am until 3.30pm on January 30.