Confusion over Wrexham Council's £1.2m service cuts


Jonathan Grieve

LACK of information in a council report about cuts to services totalling £1.2 million has been criticised.

The cuts, which form part of savings of £8.2m needed from Wrexham Council’s 2015/16 budget, were discussed at a meeting of the council’s executive board yesterday.

Included in the suggestion was a decision to cut the mayoral budget by £26,000; a review of community living service, with proposed savings of £250,000; a review of ‘Work Opportunities Services’ proposing savings of £100,000 and review of short-term break facilities to save £444,000. Also on the agenda was a bid to save £62,000 by cutting third party funding in prevention and social care.

Cllr Malcolm King, lead member for policy, finance, performance and governance, said the lack of detail was inevitable as the council was identifying cuts well in advance so the local authority could be as open as possible with the public.

“We are not agreeing to do these cuts but we are putting them out to consultation. We are only agreeing in principle,” he said. “We wanted to move earlier so people had more time to respond.

“There will be more detail later on because there are still sensitive consultations to undertake.”

Leader of the Wrexham Independents group, Cllr David A. Bithell, said he was “concerned” about the lack of detail.

“What we don’t want to happen is people not understanding what they are voting for. It needs to be crystal clear,” he said.

Cllr Arfon Jones said cuts to respite care could have a significant impact on carers.

He asked: “The danger is if we cut too much, we may become responsible for looking after these people 24/7. We don’t want to cut too much from a very important service.”

But Cllr King said the council would limit the impact to carers in the face of the £440,000 cut.

A decision to put the cuts out to consultation was approved, with three members abstaining.

Cuts of more than £5m have been identified for 2015/16, with Cllr King telling members to expect another £1m to be identified ahead of next month’s executive board.

Meanwhile, money from an underspend totalling more than £1.5m has been used to contribute towards cuts from this year’s budget. School underspends of about £150,000 will be put back into their budgets so they can be used over the next financial year.

Some of the underspend has been used to replenish the council’s winter maintenance fund. But Cllr Bithell said it represented a “quite significant amount” which could have been used to keep Plas Madoc Leisure Centre open longer or put towards grounds maintenance to increase grass cutting.

Cllr Jones called for the money to implement the living wage for staff who fall under that level.

Cllr King said there would be an annual cost attached to the idea that the council could not afford.

Executive board members voted to transfer £120,000 to the winter maintenance reserve, with £1.2m going into the capital reserve.

Of the £2.2m balance of the Pay Review reserve, £324,000 will be transferred to the Transitional VER reserve and the remaining £1.9m will be piled into a new Reshaping Service reserve. It can be used to fund costs for reshaping services.

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