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Warrington anti-cuts councillor exposes devastating cuts plans
Warrington councillor Kevin Bennett, who was suspended from the council Labour group for voting against the Warrington borough council (WBC) budget cuts in 2013 is still awaiting confirmation from the Labour group on when he will be allowed to return.
Councillor Bennett said in a press release that the budget for the next financial year which includes up to 75 job losses and service 'redesigns' to help save money has included an investment for the crazy golf course at Walton Hall Gardens, when council tax looks set to rise by 1.98% as the council decided not to take on government funding to pay for a freeze.
In the meantime he has been representing his ward (Fairfield and Howley) and trying to get a grasp of how devastating this year's budget cuts will be. As reported in the local Guardian on 13th February 2014, the council unions are 'very anxious' about the 46 jobs under threat.
Councillor Bennett said:
After finally obtaining some of the financial information on this year's budget that will be put to full council on 3rd March 2014, I have asked for my questions to be answered. The public consultation was a 'sham', it was sent out with very limited information and didn't outline what cuts would need to be made.
As I understand it, adult social care will be 'farmed out' to a social enterprise company, which in my view would be a risk as the company is completely untested. There has been no explanation of how this will save money, therefore I can only assume that it will be by cutting wages and staff. I have asked the question 'why can't it be kept in-house'?
According to the information I've received, WBC have already closed three day-care centres, reduced the overall manager numbers by a third, and restructured and reduced the team size for respite services for learning disabilities.
The council is also cutting direct payments to adult social care recipients, these cuts don't sound like a lot of money but they will be devastating for the people involved.
Some of the savings these cuts and others are proposed to make are miniscule in comparison to the 2013/14 forecasted borrowing figure to fund the capital programme of almost £500 million and at the same time WBC has millions of pounds from investments sat in the bank.
Throughout Warrington there are still many residents who are in arrears with their council tax because of the changes to the welfare system brought in by this government; we need to help these people.
WBC has 'dipped' into its reserves this year, which goes to show that reserves can be used to mitigate the cuts. I was made to feel like an outcast for even suggesting such a thing. Using reserves was also suggested by the present mayor, councillor Peter Carey, who in 2010 stated in a newsletter, edited by councillor Hitesh Patel, when talking about the £millions of reserves: 'Could this money not be used to prevent the drastic cuts the LibDem-Tory coalition running the council seems hell-bent on pushing through'.
I am hoping to get meaningful answers to these and many other questions regarding the 'privatisation' of our services.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 18 February 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.