Wigan Council has pledged to support the borough’s young people through difficult economic times by investing more money in providing new training and employment opportunities for them.
At the annual budget setting meeting of the Full Council on Wednesday March 7, Leader of Wigan Council Lord Peter Smith announced that the authority would be committing an extra £3/4M to provide assistance to young people over the year ahead.
The move was part of a package of measures that also saw the council re-iterate its pledge to protect vital front-line services in the wake of massive cuts the authority’s budget. The extra cash includes a £100k investment in the apprenticeship scheme.
Speaking at the meeting, Lord Smith said that it to expect young people to bear the brunt of the on-going financial crisis was ‘simply not right’.
“Our young people are leaving school and college and cannot get a job,” said Lord Smith. “We are pledging to do all we can to help them, which is why we are committing extra resources. We will employ young people and provide them with training and apprentice opportunities but we will also be working with local employers on this as well.”
Wigan Council is faced with making savings of £66M over four years. The council has already saved £21M this year and the budget plans for 2012/13 will see the authority save a further £24.2M.
The Leader told the meeting that the council had adopted a policy to ‘accelerate the savings’ to prevent further unexpected hardship in future years.
“We know we are in difficult times and all indications suggest that it will remain this way for some time,” he said. “So our aim is to make four years savings in three which will help us to introduce contingency measures and greater flexibility in future plans.”
Cost cutting measures that have been accepted as part of the budget-setting process have included reductions in the number of council staff.
The council’s pledge to minimise the impact on vital frontline services means that the largest share of savings will come from cuts to the back office, around £6.9 million. This is in addition to the back office cuts made last year which included a saving of £1.3 million from senior management costs.
£5.7 million will also be saved by the council reviewing and re-negotiating contracts such as waste management, transport and leisure activities to ensure the best deals and value for money are secured.
The proposed savings in the budget plans including staff reductions involve:
- £2.5 million by restructuring the council’s finance to reduce borrowing costs
- £4.2 million from the back office functions of finance, property services and legal/democratic services
- £250,000 by consolidating premises and the sale/lease of under used council property
- £0.9 million by streamlining and sharing services with other councils
The budget proposals, which were accepted at the Full Council meeting also recommend freezing Council Tax for next year.
Lord Smith added: “We have received positive feedback from the Audit Commission on the sound nature of our financial planning so far and up to now we have coped with the cuts so far but it is clearly not the case that they will just go away. There is more to come and more difficult decisions will have to be taken but we will continue to work in the best interest of all residents and the long-term future of our borough.”