Results of a public consultation into Council cuts have been revealed in a report to the Council’s Executive Board.
Wrexham Council is due to receive a -3.5% reduction in total funding for the local authority, resulting in a potential £45,000,000 of savings to be made over five years. A draft budget proposal has been created, and the proposals contained within were consulted on.
The proposals were summarised and presented in a booklet called ‘Reshaping Services – Consulting on our draft budget proposals for 2014/15’. This booklet was available online on the Council’s website, with paper copies distributed to Contact Wrexham, Wrexham Library and the Guildhall reception. People could feedback their views by completing an online or paper based feedback form, or writing in by email or letter.
Focus groups were carried out with young people on the Senedd Yr Ifanc management group and at Ruabon Youth Club to complement the exercise, where young people were asked to give a ‘happy face’ or ‘sad face’ to proposals. These focus groups had the least support for cutting subsidised bus services.
The report states “The consultation was widely publicised and a total of 631 feedback forms were received along with some 91 emails and letters.” Going by the 2011 census data that roughly states the population of Wrexham County Borough i 135,000 the recorded feedback is around 0.5% of the population. This does not count those who are referenced via petitions and other inputs to the consultation, however these also are not included in the data breakdowns in the document.
No response to the consultation was received from the trade unions other than teachers unions. Interestingly the report also adds there was no response from non domestic ratepayer representative bodies , also known as business rates.
70 letters were received on what appear to be single issue cuts eg. The Venture funding, music service cuts, Plas Madoc proposed closure and the like. Details are given to the numbers who have signed related petitions, however as the report notes “the leisure and libraries petitions are still ongoing”, therefore the figures are subject to change.
Proposals for Environment were detailed as cutting community facilities such as school crossing patrols, playgrounds and rural toilets. Highway maintainance was to be ‘retargetted’ , and street cleaning was to be reduced. Frequency of grass cutting was proposed to be reduced, and maintentaince and security of park services were also proposed to be scaled back. Subsidied bus services were also under the cuts spot light, with a near £500,000 saving identified. The respondants agreement levels to each section were again detailed.
The Council’s proposed ‘efficiency savings’ of £1.6 million in Adult Social Care were ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with by 66% of respondents.
‘Additional Subsidies to Schools’ covers the budget delegated to schools that enables some extra-curricular music services. The data provided shows that 49% of respondents broadly ‘agree’ with this funding, while 37% broadly disagree with it.
Similarly 45% ‘agree’ in some way to the withdrawing of funding for community centres, 41% in favour of the Council’s leisure review which includes the futures of Waterworld and Plas Madoc. 38% agree with the proposal to reduce the library service offered in the town.
The above paragraph written another way would read: Similarly 42% ‘disagree’ in some way to the withdrawing of funding for community centres, 46% not in favour of the Council’s leisure review which includes the futures of Waterworld and Plas Madoc. 50% disagreed with the proposal to reduce the library service offered in the town.
The ‘support services’ section had the broadest support, with the main thrust of the proposals being internal Council savings. These include the near-scrapping of ‘Connect’, the Councils magazine, passing on credit card processing fees and altering how the council borrows money – which itself could save £500,000.
Similar support was evident for ‘cross cutting’ , again a more internal focused budget adjustment with the main savings being staff based costs. Proposals to save £2.8 million include a focus on voluntary redundancy, voluntary early retirement and vacancy management.
Overall the consultation had zero responses from anyone under the age of 16, and only 27 people under the age of 25. Those aged 35-54 made up the largest response group, with 93.6% of respondants describing themselves as ‘white’, with 5.6% preferring not to say.
27% of respondants, 147 people, stated they worked for the Council with 86% classifying themselves as a local resident.
The survey had two who ticked the box to say they were ‘Elected Member of Wrexham County Borough Council’, with 16 ticking the box saying they were ‘Elected Town or Community Councillor in Wrexham County Borough’.
There is a break down of comments made , with 40 mentions of reducing the number of Councillors and associated expenses. 29 mentioned reducing or removing the role of the Mayor. 46 people also referenced that senior pay at the Council ought to be reduced.
You can read the full document, which has summaries and responses further down the document in this PDF – hosted by Wrexham.com for a change rather than the Council as at the time of writing they had ‘technical difficulties’ getting the reports online.