No 'sacred cows' in budget promises Wrexham Council leader

Reporter:

Jonathan Grieve

There are no "sacred cows" protected from budget cuts as Wrexham Council looks to slash £13 million over the next two years.

That was the promise from Wrexham Council leader, Cllr Mark Pritchard, as he urged more residents to respond to the authority's Difficult Decisions budget consultation ahead of the November 30 deadline.

Cllr Pritchard insisted the council would consider all suggestions and not just listen to those who are the loudest.

So far, about 2,000 residents of Wrexham have filled out the consultation survey – just 1.5 per cent of the county’s 137,000 population – with just three weeks to go until it ends.

Cllr Pritchard said: “I am delighted there is a conversation online but I would ask every resident of Wrexham to take some time out to fill out the consultation.

“That is the whole point of it. It is up to the people of Wrexham to let us know their feelings in terms of what they do and don’t support.

“I would like to be able to sit here and say we have had 15,000 responses.

“We know the views of people on social media – they have made their position clear and they tend to be politically motivated.

“We want to get to the people who live in our communities – Mrs Jones, Mrs Roberts and Mr Williams – to see what they say.

“We have got to be careful not just to react to the people who shout the loudest.

“There are no sacred cows – we have put it all out there.

“It is true democracy and we take what comes with it.”

Cllr David A. Bithell said other political groups within the council should come up with their own proposals to be considered if they were not happy with the suggestions put forward.

He said: “All members of the council get invited to a number of workshops regarding the budget – we have had four over the summer with another coming up after the consultation ends.

“Everyone has the opportunity to challenge and put forward ideas – if opposition groups have proposals, they need to share them with us.”

The local authority is looking to slash £13 million from its budget over the next two years – about £6.5m per year.

Demolishing or transferring ownership of bowling greens and disused community centres, ending a funding agreement for PCSOs early, higher council tax, fewer offices, increased school meals prices and charging Blue Badge holders for using car parks are among the many cuts and savings proposed in the draft Difficult Decisions consultation.

The shortfall is in addition to the £18m already saved over the last three years and an overall saving of £52m since 2008.

It is proposed that disused community centres in Kingsley Circle, Abenbury and Penycae are transferred to a third party or ‘considered for disposal and demolition’.

This could save around £3,000
in 2018/19 and a further
£11,000 in 2019/20.

The document proposes that £300,000 could be saved in 2019/20 by ending council funding for school music.

An estimated £206,000 could be saved in 2018/19 with ‘general efficiencies’ in the environmental department, which would include offering bowling facilities and pavilions to community councils or bowling clubs to manage.

The document states that reduced staff numbers due to the reshaping of services means a reduced need for office space, and that an estimated £229,000 could be saved in 2019/20.

It is also proposed to cut the number of rangers at the county borough’s 11 country parks, with the Streetscene service helping staff to clean the parks.

Facilities and staff that are grant supported will continue to be maintained according to the grant criteria.

The council provides funding to the North Wales police and crime commissioner to fund PCSOs, with the agreement set to end in March 2019.

It is proposed to bring this forward to October 2018.

To respond to the consultation online, go to www.yourvoice wrexham.net

Email:

jonathan.grieve@nwn.co.uk

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