Thursday, 10 February 2011

News - Lib Dems pledge Sheffield museums, libraries and pools will stay open

Libraries, leisure centres, swimming pools, museums, theatres and public toilets will not close under plans for £80 million of cuts at Sheffield Council in the next financial year.

The ruling Liberal Democrats have pledged they will keep weekly bin collections, continue to provide a free home insulation scheme and protect funding for Community Assemblies.

They say they will also protect the Safeguarding Children service and emergency adult social services care – which some councils have stopped providing and passed responsibility to ambulance services.

It comes as Manchester Council said it would axe 36 Sure Start nurseries, 20 youth centres, six public toilets, five libraries, two sports centres, two swimming pools, free parking and free advice services – and make 2,000 job losses during 2011/12 as it seeks to save £110m.
Sheffield Council is cutting 270 more jobs, after losing 461 jobs through a combination of voluntary redundancies and non-replacement of staff who have left or retired.

Lib Dem leader Coun Paul Scriven said: “The way that some local Labour politicians have been talking Sheffielders could be forgiven for fearing the worst. 

“But Liberal Democrats in Sheffield have rejected the kind of mass closures that have been announced by Labour councils like Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. We will be able to protect jobs, protect the vulnerable and continue to deliver the front line services that local people value the most.”

Coun Simon Clement-Jones, cabinet member for finance, said: “Instead of simply accepting library or leisure centre closures in a few areas, we are looking at slight reductions in opening hours. 

“Instead of ending services completely, we are looking to see how we can better target them. 

“We have also ruled certain things out, such as moving to a fortnightly bin collection or going to ‘critical needs only’ for adult social care.”
But the council yesterday agreed to close Howden House cashiers desks to save £250,000, despite protests from pensioners.
The council’s full budget plan will be published next week – when details will be revealed of what cuts are to be made. The budget is to be rubber-stamped at the cabinet meeting on February 23 – before being voted on at a meeting of full council on March 4.

A key element of the Lib Dems’ proposals involves saving £10 million through stopping incremental pay rises for staff – a saving which would have had to have been made from services or would have cost up to 300 more jobs. The party also proposes giving staff paid under £21,000 a year a £250 pay rise.

Labour, which could defeat the Lib Dems and have their own budget voted through if they secure support from the three minority party councillors, has not announced whether they will put forward their own budget proposals or back the Lib Dems’ increment freeze – something trade union supporters oppose.

Both Unison and GMB members have passed indicative votes proposing strike action over the Lib Dem plans. 

They are delaying calling a strike to assess the impact of the cuts on the education service – which has been exempt from the job cuts announced so far. 

Details of how the savings will affect education services will be revealed when the budget is published.

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