Lichfield District Council has admitted that it was not possible to “carry out meaningful consultation” over plans for widespread cuts.
A petition of more than 1,500 names forced an 11th hour rethink of the proposals to help plug a £1.7million hole in the local authority’s budget.
The council’s Fit for the Future review had proposed cuts to leisure, community services and community transport.
But the cabinet have been forced to go back and look again at the recommendations of the review after the campaign by Labour opposition group leader Steve Norman.
They will discuss the petition at a meeting on Monday (July 29).
A report prepared in advance of that debate admitted that the council had been forced to act quickly.
“Due to the urgency to identify and implement £1.7million of savings in order to set a budget for 2014/15 it was not possible to carry out comprehensive full service reviews across all District Council services or to carry out meaningful consultation to identify which services should be reduced,” the report said.
“The decision on which areas to reduce was based on those areas where no statutory of mandatory duties exist and where budget reduction can be made within the time required.
“The areas were also identified through Cabinet deliberations on what were core and non-core services for the council in future.”
The report also revealed that further reviews were on the horizon as the local authority feels the financial pinch.
“Throughout the process it has been made very clear that this is only the start of the change programme and that all service areas will be reviewed and reductions will be needed in all areas in light of the predicted budgets for local government over the next Comprehensive Spending Review period.”
Labour leader Cllr Norman has already welcomed the Conservative cabinet thinking again about the cuts and has called for cross-party discussions about the issue.
“Make no mistake, the council has to cut its budget by £1.7million by April next year,” he said.
“But as a Labour group we have said we want to work with the Conservative members and residents to find what people regard as important for their communities and what they reluctantly have to say goodbye to.
“This has to be done quickly but it has to be done from the bottom up, not from the top down without proper consultation.”
The Cabinet will also hear on Monday how a number of steps have already been taken to allieviate fears about the cuts.
The report says that in response to the petition, the council has already:
- Removed community transport from the proposals
- Made clear that assets such as the Old Mining College, Jigsaw and Mill Lane Link will still be available for use
- Begun examining how community groups or partners to manage these assets
- Retained funds to support initiatives such as Work Club
- Met with the opposition and considered suggestions from staff about alternative proposals
- Begun looking at the cost of a wider public consultation on the cuts
Meanwhile, the council report also admitted that the long-term picture for Lichfield District may need to be reconsidered.
“In light of the need for such substantial savings there will need to be a review of the ambitions laid out in the strategic plan as clearly not all of the aspirations contained therein are going to be able to be pursued and delivered,” the report added.