Cuts will hit jobs and day centres

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SCORES more Wigan jobs and half of the borough’s old folks day centres are set to be axed as the council faces up to another round of Government cuts.

Town hall chiefs, attempting the “most difficult and challenging” annual budget yet since the economic crisis enveloped the country, are set to reduce the head count by the equivalent of 211 full time positions.

The news is tempered slightly by the fact that almost a quarter of the jobs will come from staff transferring to a new IT service-provider being jointly set up with neighbouring Bolton Council.

Another blow is the plan to shut down six old people’s day centres - half the borough’s remaining provision - will also be closed by town hall chiefs.

However all Wigan’s 21 children’s centres will remain open, offering the same hours, in a demonstration of the authority’s commitment to this key services despite a £4m cut from Government in the council’s early years grant.

Other moves to save the £18.8m spending axe announced by the Government include £4m of procurement efficiencies, changes to the waste collection and an increase in recycling (£1.1m) Invest to Save on the highways (£2m) along with modernising the council’s economic regeneration, environmental and leisure areas (£2.7m).

Residents will face a council tax increase of two per cent (in line with the Government’s cap), although that will eventually rise to include the fire, police and (for the first time) public transport precepts.

Council chiefs have chosen to decline the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’s £1m grant if it were to freeze council tax next year because that would result in the council needing to make a further year on year saving of £1m worth of savings, resulting in more services being reduced.

Council Leader Lord Smith said that Wigan was being discriminated against by a Government that favoured the Tory shire counties in the south.

The borough has received the THIRD HIGHEST spending cuts in Britain out of 152 local authority areas despite being regularly hailed as a pathfinder in terms of innovation and efficiency within local government.

Set to lead the opposition charge against the Coalition’s system of apportioning council spending cuts in the House of Lords on Thursday, Lord Smith said: “We in Wigan are the wrong colour for this Government.

“The borough has to deal with spending cuts of more than £200 per person while shire authorities in the south are facing cuts of £10 per person.

“It is a very clever and very deliberate redistribution of wealth from the most needy areas to the better off areas.”