More cuts but council tax will stay frozen

Lord Peter Smith
Lord Peter Smith

BUDGET proposals which will see another £24m cut have been approved by the borough’s councillors.

Only a handful of opposition members voted against the budget proposed by the ruling Labour group which will see a further £24m in savings as the council looks to save £66m by 2014/15 as Government grants are brutally axed.

This will equate to £400 less to spend per borough household.

The council’s pledge to minimise the impact on vital front-line services means the largest share of further job losses would come from a 30 per cent cut in the ‘back office’ such as public relations, finance and legal services which would save around £6.9m.

This is on top of back-office cuts made last year which included a saving of £1.3m by reducing the number of directors and cutting the chief executive’s salary.

An estimated £5.7m will be saved by the council’s driving a harder bargain over contracts such as waste management, transport and leisure activities.

However, when addressing councillors at Wednesday nights meeting, the council leader Lord Smith said that despite the tough measures, the council would be investing in apprenticeships for young people and that council tax prices would be frozen.

He said: “We will invest £100,000 in apprenticeships for young people in the borough as it is they who are the most affected by the current economic plight. Many of us remember the scenes of the 1980s and we do not want to see young people being rejected and workless.

“We are saving more now as it certainly looks as if past 2015 there will be even further reductions to be made.”

Independent Coun Gary Wilkes, leader of the opposition, said: “This level of cuts is happening too fast and too soon.

“The council is too big. Leigh should have its own council which would benefit the people of both Wigan and Leigh.”

The proposals were broadly supported by the Conservatives who said that because of the broader strategy they had to support the budget.