Insults traded as £10m Blaenau Gwent cuts approved
A SPECIAL meeting of Blaenau Gwent Council descended into political mudslinging as a £10 million cuts plan was approved.
Around 164 jobs from across the council are expected to go as part of the cuts, which were supported by the majority of councillors. But the independent group voted against the cuts, saying the impact of the cuts on the community had not been properly assessed.
Independent minority group leader John Hopkins said his group could not support the proposed cuts, and suggested the council reduce its number of executive members from 10 to seven, which he said would allow public toilets and Blaina’s waste disposal site to remain open.
He added he had never known the council to be in such a bad position, saying: “This council is in crisis in terms of finance.”
Leader Hedley McCarthy responded by saying it was a “bit late” for the Independent group to suggest new proposals and consultations.
He added Cllr Hopkins “appeared to be re-writing history” as a crisis team had been brought in during 2004 when Cllr Hopkins was leader of the council.
“It would appear we have had problems dating back from the time you were leader,” he said. “To mix my metaphors - people in glass houses shouldn’t call the kettle black.”
Cllr Hopkins said: “I do not mind being insulted by the leader, I’m used to it. But the culture problems in this council are still here, and he’s part of it.”
Deputy leader Steve Thomas said Cllr Hopkins’ comments could be seen as ‘cheap political point making’.
The 164 job losses will be mainly through voluntary redundancy and early retirement, and will take place following a consultation period.
Amendments made by the council mean meals on wheels prices will go up to £3.15, instead of the proposed £3.90, car parking charges will not go ahead and the council will not be cutting back on street lighting.
The £10 million deficit needs to be addressed in order to balance the 2014/15 revenue budget.
Cuts which were approved include: a minimum of 164 job losses, including homecare workers, which is expected to save £600,000 rather than the £700,000 saving initially estimated; losing five jobs from environmental services staff saving £56,000, getting rid of four seasonal grasscutting staff at local cemeteries saving £58,000; reducing local, county and allotment grants saving up to £12,000; a reduction in mayoral and civic hospitality totalling £18,000; decreasing grounds maintenance including grass cutting and sports land maintenance saving £500,000; losing four jobs in the street lighting section saving £151,000; increasing meals on wheels from £2.40 a meal up to £3.15 and closing five public toilets saving £36,000.
It also includes the closure of Nantyglo Leisure Centre on December 24, which will save the council £327,350.
Referring to the grounds maintenance cut, Independent Cllr Nigel Daniels said: “It’s not on, and I for one cannot support cuts of this magnitude. I cannot go back to the people I represent and say this is the impact it’s going to have.”
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