Wolverhampton City Council are trying to make cuts to the tune of £41million in order to make up the gaping deficit in its finances. This translates to at least 150 council jobs, but the tone of an article published in today’s Express & Star suggests that frontline services will suffer.
“Care homes may shut, five libaries be drastically reduced and next year’s Christmas Festival be cancelled as the council tries to plug its financial black hole”. The article continues, “Thirty separate service cuts have been disclosed to the Express & Star, including moving old people out of Nelson Mandela House, Pendeford, to cheaper sheltered areas, and slashing £750,000 from youth services. Five of the city’s least used libraries may only be used for dropping off books”.
The council’s Unison branch secretary has threatened industrial action in response to what the council has described as the fallout from the global economic crisis.
We’ve been aware for a long while now that the current administration has blamed the last for gaping holes in the budget, but it seems a hasty move to start announcing closures before they’ve sought to root out entrenched waste.
The TPA will soon be releasing a new Council Spending Series with up to date figures, so it will certainly be interesting to see if Wolverhampton City Council have first made moves to slim down the vast layer of middle management that has grown at an incredible rate in the last ten years.
Before a care home or a library has shut, don’t they have the obligation to address the following?:
- The £2,695,000 on advertising and publicity, up 149.5% from 1997. Wolverhampton City Council are the 87th biggest council in the country in terms of population, but spend the 42nd largest amount. And let’s not forget how much of this is advertising services to those who have no choice but to use them. A cool £1M of this amount is just spent on staff advertising.
- The £2,650,000 cost of middle management (those earning over £50k per annum), up from £515,000 in 1997, with the number growing from 9 to 38.
- The £26,199,000 spent on employer pension contributions, which works out at £111 for every man, woman and child in the city.
These are just three areas, but they clearly indicate that there are departments and payments that could easily be chopped back without harming frontline services. The TPA calculated that if each of the three mentioned above were reduced by just 10%, that in itself would amount to more than a £3million saving.
Granted £3million is not £41million, but 10% perhaps doesn’t go far enough, and we can be sure that these sorts of cuts can be made from elsewhere. In the past ten years we’ve seen a proliferation of non-jobs and junkets, unparalleled salary inflation and whole new layers of bureaucracy. It’s time to start stripping away the ineffective and the arbitrary.
If cuts have to be made – and it seems pretty evident that they do – then Wolverhampton City Council should be seen to start at the right end, rooting out waste and unnecessary cost in the back office rather than beginning with the services that residents value.