A SURVEY has launched to gather residents' views on radical cost-cutting plans announced by Wyre Forest District Council.

Proposals to decrease the overall size of the council in order to close a £2.7 million budget gap could see the council's workforce reduced, services shared with other councils or outsourced to the private sector, and its headquarters at Wyre Forest House in Kidderminster sold.

The authority estimates it will run out of reserves by 2023 and says its financial situation has been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, November 10, members of the Progressive Alliance agreed on the potential money saving measures, which they say will help to protect essential frontline services.

The proposals include commissioning a business case to dispose of all or part of Wyre Forest House and moving local assets and services to town councils.

They also include ending the Community Leadership Fund, which gives councillors an allowance to support local good causes, and increasing the district council's part of the council tax bill by the maximum amount without triggering a referendum, as well as asking the Boundary Commission to review the number of councillors with a view to reducing the amount from 2027.

The council is now asking for comments from members of the public before more detailed budget proposals are drawn up.

Council leader Councillor Graham Ballinger said: “The council had been making progress on reducing the funding gap. In April this year, its general fund balances were up just over £1 million from the previous year and earmarked reserves were increased substantially to cover known liabilities.

"But the council’s financial position has become worse with government grant funding reducing over many years and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic putting more pressure on our finances, with extra costs and lost income not being covered in full by additional government funding. We know we are going to have to make some big changes.

"We cannot continue to provide the same number or quality of services we have in the past.

"We are looking to reduce the number of priorities we have in our corporate plan and would like to hear which of our priorities the public feel is most important to them."

Opposition councillors from the Conservative Group have criticised the proposals, describing them as a "plan to close more services".

They say the Progressive Alliance "needs a detailed plan that doesn’t just include dumping services on to the local town councils” and said the coronavirus pandemic "should not be an excuse for cuts".

To fill out the survey before Thursday, December 10, visit wyreforestdc.gov.uk/budget2021.