Councillors barred from preventing cuts claim Walsall Labour

Walsall’s Labour councillors have been told they cannot vote down over £13 million in cuts as the Tory/Lib Dem coalition run authority embarks on another round of cost cutting measures.

The authority’s solicitors have informed the 28 Labour members on Walsall Council that they cannot legally halt the coalition’s financial plans, which will be presented to the full council on Thursday 21st February.

The news means members of the Labour group will table a series of amendments to lessen the budget’s worst consequences but abstain on the main budget vote.

Labour councillors are warning that the Lib Dems and Conservatives’ plans have chosen again to hit young people, the elderly, and the jobless and low paid.

Labour group leader Tim Oliver said: “Labour Party members and councillors, like ordinary people, are angered by the government’s continuing attack on jobs and services. In particular, the fact that Walsall and towns in the Black Country are suffering from disproportionate cuts compared to the wealthy shires.

“We’re told that if we block this budget, the immediate effect would be a complete halt to any new spending. That means social workers could not take at risk children into care, elderly and disabled patients would remain in hospital because the council could not pay for their social care package, we couldn’t even buy grit to replace the salt spread on our roads.

“If the council continues to fail to set a legal budget, government officials will walk in and impose the cuts.  Labour councillors are elected to protect working families, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.  Therefore, we can’t just pick and choose which laws we obey and let ordinary people bear the brunt.”

Deputy Labour leader, Sean Coughlan, adds: “Labour won’t vote for this budget but we are angry the Lib Dem and Conservatives locally are so willingly pushing through their government’s cuts, while at the same time giving themselves an increase in cabinet members’ allowances. So we will be proposing a series of amendments to minimise its effects and we are asking councillors from all parties to vote with us put their constituents first.

“The only other legal alternative would be an enormous 16% increase in council tax, which would require an expensive referendum, and which in any case we clearly could not support as it would come on top of the hardships already being imposed on hard-working families across Walsall by this government’s failing economic policies.”

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