From Councillor Roger Lawrence Leader of Wolverhampton City Council.

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This is a dark day for Wolverhampton, our residents and staff.

We have no choice but to make large scale budget cuts that will impact on services and jobs.

Continuing Government cuts and a Council Tax freeze over the last 4 years have led to a drastic reduction in our finances. At the same time, demand for some council services has been rising due to an increasing birth rate, a changing population and the fact that people are living longer.

It is likely the effects of the Government's change to welfare will also increase demand for our services as our citizens experience increasing personal financial hardship.

Furthermore Government cuts to council budgets have not only been bigger than any other part of the public service but, they have not been shared around equally.

Wolverhampton has been disproportionately impacted by cuts to government grant, which have favoured wealthier rural areas over economically disadvantaged Labour controlled urban areas.

This is unfair and means people in cities like Wolverhampton are having to shoulder bigger cuts to their services than those in wealthier parts of the country.

Austerity is not new and through our very careful financial management, we've sustained a reduction in our revenue budget of almost £100 million over the last 5 years. So we are in a better position than many other councils. However, continuing government cuts mean there is now no way to address the budget shortfall without considerable pain in terms of services and jobs, at all levels in the council.

Nor can we make up the difference from our reserves, not least because if we carry on as we are by April 2015 those reserves will have been reduced to an unsustainable level.

That is why today the council's chief executive Simon Warren has been personally briefing staff about the need for us to reduce the workforce by a 1,000 jobs by 2015.

The council cannot deliver a legal balanced budget unless it takes a radical approach to its current service provision. Our spending will therefore be strictly confined to essential services and the priorities stated by Wolverhampton's residents in our recent budget engagement exercise: economic regeneration, job creation and supporting vulnerable people.

All existing services will have to be reduced and, if they are not essential or do not meet the stated priorities, they must stop altogether. Services that operate on a commercial basis will have to survive without a council subsidy, or else close. These changes must also impact on the Voluntary Sector and the nature of our relationship with the sector.

Cabinet will have detailed discussions with officers about savings proposals this month. Services will only be maintained if they are determined by council policy, Government legislation or by the decision of the council to meet a proven demand.

The public will be consulted on a range of proposals prior to final decisions being made before the budget is set for April 2014.

Change on this scale will be extremely painful, not least because our staff have already been bearing the brunt of government cuts to council grant over a number of years through recruitment and wage freezes. I am very sad that we are now in a position where we will inevitably lose so many hard-working and dedicated officers.

However, as Council Leader elected to represent the people of Wolverhampton, I have to pursue a course of action that best safeguards the future of services needed by the people of this city and in the face of continued and unprecedented government cuts this action has now become inevitable.

  • released: Wednesday 11 September, 2013