Today, Wednesday 16 October, Wolverhampton City Council publishes its budget proposals for 2014-2015. The background is the most severe financial challenge that local government has faced in modern memory.
The council's Government grant support continues to be cut - and the result of these cuts is that we must make a further £98 million of savings by 2018-2019 if we are to meet our statutory obligation to deliver a balanced budget.
To put this in context, £98 million is equivalent to some 31% of the council's projected net budget of £313 million - almost one third.
It is particularly galling to face this additional burden when the council has done so much over the past five years to make substantial savings. In fact, prudent management during that period has allowed it to cut its revenue spending by £100 million, without affecting essential services.
The situation today is very different. As a direct result of Government grant policy - one which has favoured wealthier rural areas over economically-disadvantaged Labour-controlled urban areas - the council has no option but to make cuts that will affect every service it delivers.
Our spending will be strictly confined to the priorities stated by Wolverhampton's residents in our recent budget engagement exercise: economic regeneration, job creation and protecting essential services.
Budgets for all existing services will be reduced in some way. If they are not essential or they do not meet the council's priorities, they must stop altogether. Services that operate on a commercial basis will have to survive without a council subsidy, or else close.
There will also be a cost in jobs. We estimate that about 1,000 people will have left the council by April 2015.
I understand that two questions residents will ask as they read through the proposals will be: "Why is the council cutting so deeply - and why now?"
The answer to the first question is the predicted £98 million gap between the council's income and expenditure that we expect to see by 2019. It is important to understand that if the situation changes and the Government cuts grants more rapidly in future years than we have assumed, this gap may grow. We have no choice but to act decisively.
The answer to the second question is that if we carry on as we are, we will not be able to maintain the council's reserves at a sustainable level. In plain language, the council would be insolvent by April 2015. Because of that, we have no choice but to act now.
Though we will be consulting on these proposals before the council's 2014-2015 budget is finalised, it is important to understand that there is virtually no room for manoeuvre on any of these proposals. Any reduction in the savings we can achieve in one area will have to be counterbalanced by deeper cuts elsewhere.
I will not deny that both the council and the city are facing an enormous - and immediate - challenge. However, I am determined to help Wolverhampton survive this attack on its services and work to build a resilient future for our city and its people. The past few years have seen enormous changes in our city, brought about by almost £2 billion worth of private and public investment. We must keep this momentum going.
As Leader of the council, I will play my part by steering the course that best safeguards the future of the services that this city needs and local people have the right to expect.
Wolverhampton is worth fighting for. Despite the challenges, together we can still build a city to be proud of.
- Type=articles;Articleid=3522;Title=View the official savings press release;
- See the full proposals at Type=articles;Articleid=3451;Title=;