Libraries remain Open But Only Voting Labour Will Save Services

Libraries in Walsall are to remain open after the Council’s ruling Labour group used reserves to fund the service for another 12 months. The council’s Labour leadership took the unusual step to more>

EDL Demo Exploiting Brave Soldier’s Death

A proposed demonstration in Bloxwich by supporters of the EDL has sparked fears of a repeat of the violence the borough suffered three years ago. Local community leaders have criticised the planned more>

Bringing Decisons Closer to the People

Radical plans to give local people a bigger say about where they live and the services they receive have been given the go ahead by Walsall Council’s cabinet. The Labour run council more>

Call for donations to food banks as jobless figures questioned.

Volunteers are concerned that support for charities will fall because government statistics are understating the true level of unemployment in Walsall, which could be twice the official figure. The news comes alongside more>

Listening to People, Protecting the Most Vulnerable

The leader of Labour run Walsall Council has said the borough’s most successful public consultation on the authority’s proposed budget had shown it was ready to listen and act on the views more>

Driving Up Standards In Walsall Schools

The Councillor leading Children’s Services in Walsall has confirmed her total commitment to the council’s new ‘robust and challenging’ school improvement programme after the latest GCSEs grades showed the borough still languishing more>

Low Income Families Pay for Govt Cuts in Council Tax Support

Low income families in Walsall will be forced to pay more council tax due to further cuts to Government funding of local authorities. Reductions by the Department of Communities and Local Government more>

Call for Farage to Condemn Ukip’s ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Claims

The leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, is being called on to disown comments made by  the chairman of the party’s Walsall branch who claimed  British people are being ethnical ‘cleansed’ by migrants. more>

Labour Keeping Its Promises On Education

Mirus Academy officially opened its new £2 million English department as local MP, David Winnick, cut the ribbon to the school’s latest wing. The ceremony was attended by governors, teachers and pupils more>

District Centre Parking Charges Rejected.

Proposals to introduce car parking charges in the district centres of Willenhall, Darlaston, Bloxwich, Brownhills and Aldridge have been rejected by council leaders following a hugely successful public consultation by Walsall council. more>

Libraries remain Open But Only Voting Labour Will Save Services

Sean Coughlan, Leader of Walsall Council's Labour group.

Sean Coughlan, Leader of Walsall Council’s Labour group.

Libraries in Walsall are to remain open after the Council’s ruling Labour group used reserves to fund the service for another 12 months. The council’s Labour leadership took the unusual step to amended it own budget so that Pheasey, Beechdale, Walsall Wood, Walsall South and Streetly libraries continue operating.

The changes meant proposals by the Conservative group, which would have only kept Pheasey and Streetly open, were withdrawn. In addition, extra money was invested in the garden waste and street cleaning services.

Leader of the council, Sean Coughlan, explained: “On Monday we were informed by officers that an extra £800,000 was available. Because we had some flexibility we felt that investing that money in a one off saving would have a positive outcome for the residents of the borough. Unfortunately, the proposed budget had already been sent out to councillors and under the rules of the authority we had to have the permission of a full meeting of the council to change our plans. So after negotiations with the Conservatives, we did that at the first opportunity and won support for the revised budget.

“Overall, the budget protects the most vulnerable and encourages job creation, both of which are so desperately needed in Walsall.”
He added that the changes were an example of the Labour group’s policy of listening and learning from the public, businesses and other organisations.
We have run the most successful budget consultation in the history of the council and as we asked and listened, we have changed and adapted our proposals – even up to the last minute. That is something I think we have right to be proud of.”

But he warned that the massive pressure by government to cuts services would mean that until a change in government policy on funding local councils, more cuts in jobs and services were inevitable. “The Conservative led coalition government is demanding Walsall cuts £84 million over the next four years, In May, all of us have the opportunity to choose not only who runs Walsall but also the country. It is that vote that will make the real difference and to protect jobs and services; so we must win people to vote Labour.”

EDL Demo Exploiting Brave Soldier’s Death

A proposed demonstration in Bloxwich by supporters of the EDL has sparked fears of a repeat of the violence the borough suffered three years ago. Local community leaders have criticised the planned event, organised by a group calling itself the Walsall Patriots, to mark the anniversary of the death of Drummer Lee Rigby who was murdered in Woolwich two years ago.

The group claims it has invited over 4000 supporters of the EDL to the demonstration which is scheduled to take place in May.

Local councillor, Shaun Fitzpatrick, said: “The history of the EDL shows this proposed event has nothing to do with the commemorating Lee Rigby and has everything to do with drunken disorder and violent attacks. Despite the pleas by the family of Lee Rigby and by the Ministry of Defence for extremists not to exploit his death for political purposes, this group seems intent on doing just that and by doing so they dishonour his memory.

Drummer Lee Rigby

“The last time the EDL came to Walsall we saw police officers being injured, business premises attacked and 30 EDL supporters being sentenced to over 60 years for their violent offences, we don’t want to see a repeat of that.”

Local MP, David Winnick, condemned the demonstration and called on the people of Walsall to boycott it. “The memory of Lee Rigby and his terrible murder will always be remembered by the British people; it should therefore not be dishonoured by a few extremists, who use the name of this fine soldier for their sordid political ends.

“Lee Rigby’s death was a horrifying event for his family and for the nation and for people to use this for their own ends is despicable. What the organisers’ intentions are in holding this demonstration in Bloxwich can only be guessed at but wherever the EDL and their hangers on appear, violence inevitable follows.

“I would ask the people of Walsall to turn their backs on this blatant exploitation of a brave soldier’s death.”

Mr Winnick and Cllr Fitzpatrick, said they would be raising their concerns with the police and Walsall Council to see how a repeat of the violent behaviour of three years ago can be averted.

Bringing Decisons Closer to the People

khizar-hussain

Khizar Hussain “Bringing decisions and services closer to the people.”

Radical plans to give local people a bigger say about where they live and the services they receive have been given the go ahead by Walsall Council’s cabinet.

The Labour run council is taking far-reaching steps to devolve power and resources to local people, helping residents to get more involved in decisions about their neighbourhoods. The plan will develop community hubs for each of the borough’s six area partnerships drawing on the views and needs of local people and partner organisations such as whg and voluntary sector groups.

The strategy will seek to make the best use of existing buildings and local assets for communities, involve residents in how services are delivered, encourage innovation and devolving power to a local level.

Announcing a major consultation on the plans, Portfolio holder for Community, Leisure and Culture, Cllr Khizar Hussain said: “The idea of community hubs will make services more responsive, instead of travelling to Walsall town centre, people can meet officers face to face and not just council staff but other organisations such as social landlords. We want the council to be more open and receptive to the communities we serve. This proposal will have profound implications for local residents, the authority and its partners because we will be asking communities to take on powers and responsibilities that normally reside in the civic centre.

“Because of the government cuts being forced on the council, we need to be more innovative and responsive to local communities, developing methods of overcoming the budgetary constraints. Regionally councils are increasingly relying on partnerships working between each other and other publicly funded bodies. We believe that we should forge a more cooperative council at a local level as well, but to make that work means listening to people and giving them the powers to enact policies tailored for their local needs.”

Call for donations to food banks as jobless figures questioned.

Corrie Halford

Corrie Halford

Volunteers are concerned that support for charities will fall because government statistics are understating the true level of unemployment in Walsall, which could be twice the official figure. The news comes alongside a plea for parents to donate school uniforms their children have outgrown or no longer use.

Labour Candidate Corrie Halford, who helped set up a school uniform bank in Aldridge, said the real level of jobless in the borough was much higher than the official claimant count of just less than 5000.

She said: “Schools uniforms can be a major outlay for parents, especially when children move from primary to secondary schools, so we are asking that people donate items of clothing from pumps and gym kits to coats and blazers.“

“I’m worried that people will not donate because they think the demands for charities’ services are falling – the truth is quite the opposite. My experience shows many people are falling off the official unemployment count, mostly through sanctions which take people off the register and denies them benefits.

“They can be sanctioned for the most minor of infringements and the only place they can then turn to is food banks and charities. One individual I talked to was denied benefits for four weeks because, for two days, she couldn’t access a computer to apply for jobs.”

According to the latest figures from the Department of Works and Pension’s website, between October 2012 and June 2014 10,762 people were sanctioned in Walsall. In the same time period, the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance fell from 10,327 to 7,020.

In December 2014 the official claimant count was 4,965 but figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest the real unemployment figure could be as high as 11600.

Corrie added: “National studies show over 40% of people sanctioned don’t reapply for benefits despite the vast majority not finding a job, so official government figures don’t reflect the true level of unemployment; not just in Aldridge but across the borough. That’s why we need people to continue giving to food banks and charities.”

*Donations can be made to The Thomas Trust  196H, Walsall Wood Road,

Aldridge, Walsall, WS9 8HB.

01922 452213

 

Listening to People, Protecting the Most Vulnerable

Sean Coughlan, Leader of Walsall Council's Labour group.

Sean Coughlan, Leader of Walsall Council .

The leader of Labour run Walsall Council has said the borough’s most successful public consultation on the authority’s proposed budget had shown it was ready to listen and act on the views of voters while protecting the most vulnerable members of the community.

Cllr Sean Coughlan said the council’s had reached out to 4,600 people in August and September and received over 7,000 responses to 54 draft proposals drawn up to deal with £29 million of government cuts to the authority’s 2015-16 budget.

Following the consultation over £1.5 million has been found to protect services voters felt to be essential to their communities; including maintaining free parking in town centres, continuing to support community associations and rejecting garden waste collection fees.

The council’s “RecruitAbility” programme will continue to support disabled people into work at the council and the Fallings Heath respite care centre for people with disabilities will remain open.

“Under the Tories and Liberal Democrats, past budgets have been designed to protect ‘front of store’ services, such as libraries, at the expense of the behind the scenes but vital departments such as social care. From the outset as a Labour group we have put the protection of the most vulnerable at the top of our priority list. The budget is designed to protect the core services people rely on; it’s a budget that says that the vulnerable – the people least often heard – won’t be left behind.

“In that aim it is fundamentally different from recent budgets when the biggest share of government cuts in Walsall fell on those reliant on social care; the elderly, the disabled and the young. Under this administration, those people can be assured this council will not expect them to pay for an international recession started in bankers’ board rooms.
“That has meant making decisions such as recruiting social workers to look after the elderly and disabled or keeping libraries open. We’d like to do both but in the face of £86 million in government cuts over four years, £29 million this year alone, these are the sort of choices we have to make.

Adding that, in the past, the Labour group had been critically of how little consultation had taken place with residents; he went on to say: “We decided to reach out and draw as many people into this process as possible. The Tories and their fellow travellers have attacked that decision but the response of the public has shown how wrong they were. We’ve listened to what Walsall people have had to say and where we can, we have acted. Openness and transparency can’t be a paper exercise and those politicians who lobbied the council while at same time saying the consultation is a waste of time have to explain their hypocritical stance.”

Responding to legitimate concerns over the closure of some services he added: “Ordinary people are very concerned about government cuts such as closing Children’s Centres and libraries. I want to emphasis that in the case of children’s centres it is the building that will close while the service itself will be continued to be delivered on an outreach basis and Surestart centres will remain open.

“As for libraries, the closure date for Streetly, Pheasey, Beechdale, Walsall Wood and Walsall South has been deferred for three months to provide time for local community groups to discuss their proposals for running book services. Proposals that are scheduled to come into effect in 2016-17 will be subject to further consultation later this year for a final decision in February 2016.”

A full report on the changes will go to cabinet on February 4 2015 and can be accessed at www.walsall.gov.uk/budgethaveyoursay