Council suffering ‘Unprecedented Government Cuts’

Every department in Walsall Council has been placed in the firing line of massive cuts due to disproportionate Government grant cuts and the fiscal irresponsibility of previous local political leaders, residents are more>

Labour’s Chris Making the Change in Birchills and Leamore

Walsall’s newest councillor has welcomed steps to tackle dangerous driving in Beechdale following years of campaigning by local residents. Chris Jones, who was only elected in July this year, made the issue more>

Labour Councillors Tear up Tory Pay Rise

A voluntary £100,000 pay cut for Walsall’s senior councillors will be confirmed next Monday at a meeting of the authority’s appointments’ board. The board will formally ratify the Labour cabinet’s decision taken more>

Labour delivering on openness and transparency

Tonight heralds the first night Walsall Council holds an Audit Committee under a Labour administration’s vision. Labour pledged under our manifesto that that we would open up the previously secretive Tory/LibDem way more>

Residents Say No to Crematorium

Residents opposed to a proposed crematorium on the outskirts of Walsall are demanding South Staffordshire council reject the plan over fears it is to close to a school and will add to more>

Ending Zero Hours Improves Care.

A radical plan to improve care for the elderly and disabled by phasing out zero hour contracts is being considered by Walsall Council’s Labour cabinet. The proposal would require companies providing council more>

Council to continue funding school crossings

School crossing patrols in Walsall will continue to be funded by the council after proposals to stop financing part of the service were withdrawn by Cabinet. Consultation was carried out with headteachers, more>

Senior Labour Councillors Take Pay Cut

Walsall’s new cabinet has handed back £100,000 in allowances to the council’s coffers as the first step in the Labour Party’s promise to implement its election pledges. The Leader of the Council, more>

Labour Take Control of Walsall Council

Labour councillors are elated after taking control of Walsall Council following a knife edge vote at an extraordinary meeting of the authority on Monday night. The new leader of the council, Sean more>

Urgent Change Needed In Walsall’s Schools

Ofsted’s slamming of Walsall’s schools improvement service as ineffective is ‘disappointing but unsurprising’; Labour’s spokesperson for education has said. Cllr Barbara Cassidy,  Chair of Walsall Council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny and more>

Council suffering ‘Unprecedented Government Cuts’

Walsall council is suffering from unprecedented  coalition Government cuts

Walsall council is suffering from unprecedented coalition Government cuts

Every department in Walsall Council has been placed in the firing line of massive cuts due to disproportionate Government grant cuts and the fiscal irresponsibility of previous local political leaders, residents are being warned.
The stark message comes as the local authority prepares its budget for 2015-16 part of £86 million of enforced cuts over the next four years and as senior officers and cabinet members attempt to protect vulnerable residents and core services.

Labour Council Leader, Sean Coughlan, said the reality of Government austerity along with the failings of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who ran the council until August, had dammed up a reservoir of mounting costs, lost income and budgetary pressures.  Cllr Coughlan said: “We took control of the council in August and in the following weeks we have learnt of a catalogue of political mismanagement by the previous administration.

“The Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat partners played politics with the budget and kept putting off crucial decisions in the hope of clinging on to power. An example of this was their refusal to make the minimum increase in council tax to support services; that has lead to an ongoing loss to the council each and every year of £6.2 million. The only time they did introduce an increase was in 2013 when there were no elections, and when they also awarded themselves an allowances increase – and that, by any definition, is playing politics with the budget and the services people rely on.

“In addition, by 2015/16 the government has in effect cut the support to our council reduction scheme by a third, which equates to a loss of £8.2M. We have to find this money from our own coffers and we have been told we simply can’t afford to fund it in full. We are determined to continue with that assistance but that money has to come from cuts in other services. “
Officers have warned that the lack of mid term financial planning in previous years has meant that the dam is now about to break and politically unpopular decisions ,which have been ducked in the past, have to be taken this year if the council is to put forward a legal budget.

Cllr Coughlan added: “This is not what we want, it’s certainly not what we would have chosen but if we are to protect the vulnerable and core services we have to deal with the realities of a Government that is hell-bent on an austerity policy – whatever the cost – and the results of past fiscal irresponsibility.” Council officers have been instructed to target remaining funds to achieve the maximum benefit for residents, business and the community as a whole.

Deputy leader of the council, Mohammed Nazir, said: “One of the first things we did as a Labour Council was to slash the levels of senior councillors’ allowances because we had a moral obligation in this time of Government cuts to share the burden with our staff. That saving is being used to fund school crossing services which were under threat by the previous Tory and Lib Dem administration. This exemplifies our belief that until there is a change in government and the funding of local authorities, we have a duty to protect jobs and services as much as possible, make improvements where we can and minimise the impact on the people of the borough. It’s no easy task but we won’t fail in it. In terms of the council’s finances, we don’t want to make these Government cuts but when we took power we accepted the responsibility of producing a legal budget and we will not duck it. We now have a duty to ensure services produce the best possible outcomes.   An example is children’s centres where the greatest need is in the most deprived wards. We are determined to target resources where they will produce optimal results, not only in the short term but also well into the future. That means some wards will see less provision but this is the responsible approach and the one that tackles the needs of communities in the fairest way.”

Labour’s Chris Making the Change in Birchills and Leamore

Councillor Tina Jukes and Labour Party candidate campaigning for a better Birchills and Leamore

Labour Councillors Tina Jukes and Chris Jones  working for Birchills and Leamore

Walsall’s newest councillor has welcomed steps to tackle dangerous driving in Beechdale following years of campaigning by local residents. Chris Jones, who was only elected in July this year, made the issue of tackling speeding cars racing through the estate a priority after his election. Cllr Jones’ election helped Walsall Labour group take control of the council in August.

Highway officers have now said that new speed signs and road markings will be in place on Cavendish Road and St Stephenson Avenue this month. In addition mobile vehicle activated speed signs will be installed to warn drivers when they are speeding. Welcoming the safety improvements, Cllr Jones thanked council engineers and local campaigners for all their hard work.

“I’ve learnt that being a local councillor requires a degree of patience as you can’t make all the changes you would like overnight but in this case authority officers and my fellow Birchills and Leamore councillors have worked very hard to get these steps in place as soon as possible. On the whole, we are talking about drivers who are unaware of how fast they are traveling but tests by police with a speed gun recorded one driver doing 93 miles an hour; an accident at that speed would be lethal.

“If these measures save one life or prevent one accident then all that hard work will have been worth it.”

Labour Councillors Tear up Tory Pay Rise

Walsall Council’s Labour Deputy Leader, Mohammed Nazir, Tearing up the Tories’ pay rise

A voluntary £100,000 pay cut for Walsall’s senior councillors will be confirmed next Monday at a meeting of the authority’s appointments’ board.
The board will formally ratify the Labour cabinet’s decision taken in August; only days after the party took control of the council.

The voluntary pay cut comes as the authority prepares to implement £84 million in Government cuts that will hit jobs and frontline services.

Leader of the Council, Sean Coughlan, his deputy, Mohammad Nazir, along with six members of the cabinet have declined controversial increases in allowances brought in by the previous Tory and Lib Dem coalition. Along with reductions in the number of cabinet members from eight to six the total savings will come to £99,383 pa.

Saying to take the money at this time would be morally wrong, Cllr Coughlan, said Labour had contested the increases when brought in by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats administration. “We have always said that when you are asking staff to do more for less then it is only right that as councillors, we should do the same. We made a pledge in our manifesto to scrap the increases and now we are implementing it.”

“Over the coming four years the Government has decided to cut the council’s budget by £84 million. Despite our best efforts, everyone knows that means massive cuts in jobs and services. We will do our best to mitigate those cuts but in these circumstances, in would be morally and ethically wrong to take this increase.”

Labour delivering on openness and transparency

Councillor Gareth Illmann-Walker

Councillor Gareth Illmann-Walker

Tonight heralds the first night Walsall Council holds an Audit Committee under a Labour administration’s vision.

Labour pledged under our manifesto that that we would open up the previously secretive Tory/LibDem way of doing things and be open and honest with the people of Walsall.

That’s why tonight; while under the previous Conservative/LibDem regime people were kept in the dark about the problems that Walsall Council faces we are holding an Audit Committee that will publish the risk registers for Walsall Council and make them publicly available for anyone to see.

Labour’s Lead Member on Audit, Gareth Illmann-Walker said:

I’ve served on the Audit Committee for the past few years and I’ve always felt constrained on what I’ve been able to tell people. Tonight ushers in the real change that we promised in our manifesto. It would have been easy to simply take over the committee now Labour controls the council but we have taken things two steps further.

Not only have we not sought to take political control of the committee; we have appointed a non-partisan independent chair, but also have decided to publish the council’s risk register where under the previous administration it was kept behind closed doors.

There are of course some instances where ongoing contractual negotiations and legal proceedings require some elements of the council’s work to remain confidential but I am pleased that at tonight’s meeting a mere 6 pages of papers have to be held in private session for that reason where in the past it has literally been hundreds of pages.”

Residents Say No to Crematorium

Jacki Anscombe, Joyce James, Cllr Patti Lane and Pauline Kenn show their opposition.

Jacki Anscombe, Joyce James, Cllr Patti Lane and Pauline Kenn show their opposition.

Residents opposed to a proposed crematorium on the outskirts of Walsall are demanding South Staffordshire council reject the plan over fears it is to close to a school and will add to traffic problems. People living on the Mossely Estate say the proposal will add to existing heavy traffic on Broad Lane, a busy link to the M6 motorway, and is sited too close to Abbey Primary school.

The application by the Westerleigh Group to build the crematorium on green belt land owned by South Staffordshire council is also being opposed by Essington parish council.

Pauline Kenn, chairwoman of the Mossley residents association, says the plans don’t take into consideration the disruption to local residents. “This is already a very busy road and the added traffic from slow moving vechiles will only add to the problems residents already face. In addition, the site is too close to Abby Primary school and we are concerned about the impact of such a facility on young children. Furthermore, the company wants to use green belt land which will harm the existing countryside.”

Residents are being supported by their local councillor, Patti Lane, who questioned its location. “This site will have a major impact on Mossley residents but because it is just across the border from Walsall, I fear that South Staffordshire council might not take give enough weight to the views of people who will be most adversely effected by it. There is also the problem that the land is owned by the council who will lease it to the developers, so there is a clear conflict of interest when it comes to granting planning permission.” Cllr Patti and residents now plan to make a formal objection when the proposal is brought to planning chiefs.