As many of you will know, the cuts are ongoing at Walsall Council and in the coming year the authority faces a shortfall of another £25 million, and sadly, this is really going to impact on local services we take for granted.
There are details of the general consultation at the end of this post, and many of you may like to respond this coming weekend.
Readers may also be aware of the proposed cuts to the support of Walsall Citizens Advice Bureaux which have caused much controversy – you can find out more about that here, and join the opposition campaign here. There’s also an online petition you can sign here.
The reason I write today is to draw reader attention to the proposals for libraries specifically, under which Walsall Wood’s library is slated for closure and will move in some form to the new Active Living Centre currently being constructed at Oak Park.
Walsall Council have this to say on the matter:
Proposal 74 – Consider closure of 7 libraries and the Mobile Library Service with retention of 9 libraries and the Housebound Service
The proposal for consultation is to consider closure of 7 libraries (Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pleck, Rushall, South Walsall, with Walsall Wood book exchange relocated to Oak Park Active Living Centre) keeping 9 libraries and the housebound service as the core library service for the Borough – Aldridge, Bloxwich. Brownhills, Darlaston, Pelsall, Pheasey, Streetly, Willenhall, Central, Housebound Library Service).
The proposal would save a total of £487,912, £328,854 to be delivered in 2016/17 representing implementation at the end of July and a further £159,058 in 2017/18.
Proposal 75 – Implement Open+ technology in retained libraries to support opening hours and enable the more efficient deployment of staff
Open+ is a system which enables access to library buildings and basic facilities without the need to have library staff on site. It works with the existing library management system and will automatically control self-service kiosks, public access computers, security, lighting etc. It has the potential to extend library opening hours and save on revenue budgets by only having staff available at times that have been identified as the busiest.
This proposal would see the implementation of Open+ in those retained libraries which have the appropriate layout and thereby enable staff efficiencies and possible enhanced hours of access. In association with the proposal for the rationalisation of the library network, this would offer savings of around £349,813.
Implementation could be in 2017/18 to allow for the procurement and installation of the system.
How to have your say on these proposals
It is planned that focus groups will be held at all libraries proposed for closure.
Residents and service users can also have their say by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning Allyson Hunt on 01922 650322.
You can also have your say via our short online survey here.
There are planned consultation events you can attend at Walsall Wood Library: these take place from 2.30 to 4pm on Wednesday 25th and Saturday 28th November 2015 – all are welcome to attend.
Please do take part in the consultations if you can. The cuts will massively affect not just our patch, but the whole borough and I’d like to think we can all have our say.
Walsall council have supplied the following information on the wider budget consultation:
Budget consultation – Financial Year 2016-17
Walsall Council sets a budget each year and has to decide how to allocate available money to the wide range of vital services it provides to the community. The budget setting process involves some difficult decisions, which reflect national and local priorities, as well as the needs, wants and aspirations of 270,000 residents.
Answer our detailed online survey on the proposal for libraries
Answer our detailed online survey on the proposal for Public Health Lifestyle Services
Answer our detailed online survey on the proposal for the New Art Gallery
Do you contribute to the cost of your care services? Answer our online survey on the proposal for community based charging
How Walsall Council delivers its services to residents across the borough is related directly to the funding it has available. This funding is secured through two key sources; the amount of money we can raise from council tax and funding from central government (often called grants).
Since 2010, it has been well documented that funding to all councils from central government has been greatly reduced. In fact, over the last four years, Walsall Council alone has made savings of over £84 million. However, this persistent pressure to reduce costs is set to continue into 2020, by which time the council must save a further £85 million.
- Walsall Council has already reduced spending in 2015/16 by identifying efficiencies of £29.2m to balance the budget
- Due to further cuts in funding, further efficiencies of around £84.8m will be required over the next four years
- The latest information from government shows that national spending totals are forecasted to reduce by 40% by 2020/21. Actual allocations for 2016/17 will not be known until December 2015.
Over the last five years, Walsall council has developed its annual budget with the primary aim of preserving vital services, whilst also meeting its obligation to achieve the required savings. Every year this task is becoming increasingly difficult. Choices are becoming limited, because there are statutory services that the council has to protect by law such as looking after our elderly and protecting and safeguarding young people and children. We also have a legal requirement to provide certain leisure and community services, too. So how and where we spend money is becoming very challenging indeed.
We are now setting our budget for 2016/17 and must again draft a balanced budget proposal with £25 million less. In this dire economic climate, now more than ever, we need your involvement as decisions made now will determine how we deliver services in the future.
Undoubtedly, these are difficult times and difficult decisions will have to be made. The levels of Council service provision will inevitably change. Some services will no longer be available. This is why your views are central to the final budget decisions to be made in February 2016. As your council, we will remain committed to delivering services you need in a way that offers both value for money and preserves services for those who are most in need.
Listening and responding to the views of residents is key to our budget setting process. No final decisions on spending have been made so far, but what is not negotiable is the total budget figure which cannot change.
Have your say on council purpose and priorities
The council will focus on the following key purpose and priorities over the next 4 years, within the constraints of decreasing resources.
Improve lives and life chances for everyone who lives and works in the Borough of Walsall and, in so doing, minimise the help that residents need from the state.
- Supporting business to thrive and supporting local people into work;
- Improving health and well being, including independence for older people and the protection of vulnerable people;
- Creating safe, sustainable and inclusive communities;
- Improving safeguarding, learning and the life chances for children and young people, raising aspirations;
- Create a modern, dynamic and efficient workforce designed around what residents need.
We now want to hear your views on the council’s purpose and priorities. Your views will be used to help finalise the council’s corporate priorities and budget for 2016/17 and beyond. You can read about the council’s spending priorities and corporate priorities here and have your say via our short online questionnaire.
Alternatively email email@example.com, write to Budget Consultation, Walsall Council, Darwall Street, Walsall WS1 1TP, call 01922 653644 or visit the First Stop Shop, Darwall Street, Walsall.
The closing date for responses is 22 November 2015.
Have your say on draft budget proposals – Service change consultation
Details of the draft budget are contained in the ‘Resource Allocation 2016/17 to 2019/20: Draft Revenue Budget for Consultation’, reported to Cabinet on 28 October 2015. This report outlines plans for future service delivery, including proposals to meet funding reductions and cost pressures in 2016/17 – 2017/18.
To inform the draft budget, services are consulting on draft proposals that involve a change in policy or service. For ease of reference you can read just the draft proposals that involve a change in policy / service here (.PDF 370KB) (savings which total £8,270,084 in 2016/17 and £9,461,554 in 2017/18). Full details of each proposal can be found in the Cabinet report above.
Over the coming weeks services will be consulting service users and other stakeholders to understand views on the proposed changes, as well as understand the potential impact and to seek alternative solutions. Click here for details of consultation activity taking place.
Feedback from consultation will be reported to Cabinet for consideration in advance of any decisions being made, with the final budget set to be agreed on 25 February 2016.