Walsall residents council tax bills will rise by almost 4% after the Conservatives passed their budget for 2020/21 at the recent meeting of Full Council on Thursday 27th February 2020.
This Conservative budget will see Walsall Council paying private consultants PriceWaterhouseCooper (PWC) £10 million over the next few years with the claim that this will save £3 for every £1 spent. The council faces a £71 million budget cut over the next three years.
Walsall Labour Group criticised the Conservative budget and said that any cuts were “hidden” and this prevented the Labour group from tabling alternative budget plans.
Walsall Labour group leader Councillor Aftab Nawaz said: “It has been sold to us that it is going to be a transformative way of doing council business. But we have no doubt it is about cutting services.
“The budget that has come forward doesn’t give us the details of which cuts are going to happen, even though we’ve asked many questions.
“We’re very sceptical. I’m calling this the Houdini budget because within it, there are things hidden we are not being told about and when that pops out its going to impact on the people of Walsall.
“A level of detail would have aided the democratic process and we could have put alternatives forward and allowed the people of Walsall to choose which administration they wanted.
“The cuts are hidden. We think the Tories know where the cuts are but won’t tell us. We are being asked to trust the Conservatives which to us is a contradiction in terms.
“We have been asked to support a PWC budget which will only benefit the profit margins of PWC. We don’t feel it will help the people of Walsall.”
Councillor Lee Jeavons, Shadow portfolio for Children’s and Education said:
“I think this budget is a confidence trick on the people of Walsall. Nationally the government are saying councils are getting 15% more but this is double counting as it includes the council tax raise being implemented!
Budgets are a package of measures and there are some welcome capital spends and investment in there, but it is what we cannot see that worries me. We do know that circa £1m is coming out of Adult Social care, £0.7m out of Children’s services and £5m is being made in other “Corporate savings.” What the leader of the Council Councillor Bird did say, is that “free is over” and that “the council is no longer a provider of services, but a facilitator”.
This is a key phrase. It implies that services we currently see the council provide, from SEN transport to brown bins, may become chargeable or be removed, we just do not have that detail. This from a Walsall Conservative party who, not so long ago, criticised a proposal to look at charging for brown bins by the then Labour administration. This is then, the worst sort of opportunistic political hypocrisy.
What we are moving to then is an “Easy Jet” style of local council, where the very basics are provided, but anything else is removed or charged for, in the same way as you can take baggage on Easy Jet or have an in-flight meal, as long as you pay for it and all the time, residents will continue to see council tax rises.”