FEWER than 250 people have responded to a public consultation over the worst Coventry council budget proposals in living memory to hit jobs and services in communities.
The public consultation ends today on proposals to begin a closure programme of nearly every council service in nearly every community – including libraries, children’s centres, youth clubs, play centres and community centres – and 1000 more council job losses.
Some communities have also started petitions against potential library closures.
Trades unions claim the council should have done more to engage people and present possible alternatives to austerity cuts. They also point to a public meeting at the Council House as part of the consultation which no councillor attended.
But leading Labour councillors say they have done all they can within financial constraints to try to stimulate debate and spell out the drastic nature of the cuts.
They have repeatedly warned in media interviews that next month’s budget with usher in a period of unprecedented cuts to services which people “will see and feel” – blaming government funding cuts to the council’s budget of a third since the coalition came to power in 2010.
Budget plans also propose:
* More cuts to adult social care.
* The popular annual Godiva Festival in the War Memorial Park being held once every two years.
* Major funding cuts to charities helping the vulnerable.
* Reduced opening hours at the cultural “crown jewels” such as the Herbert Art Gallery and transport museum.
* Less street cleaning and graffiti removal.
* Fewer sports pitches.
* Fewer school lollipop ladies, unless schools can afford to run them.
* Closing the Priory Visitor Centre in Priory Row, which showcases archeological findings from the city’s first cathedral.
Jane Nellist, of the Coventry Trades Council, said: “The consultation has been dreadful. You can hardly call it a consultation.
“When we’ve gone out on the streets talking to people. They don’t know the level of cuts, and that’s worrying.
“The council has just managed to fulfil its statutory obligations to consult, but has not successfully engaged with people in Coventry about the scale of the cuts and what alternatives there could be.
“The trades unions’ alternative is to use council reserves and to mount a serious campaign with other councils to challenge the amount of government grant this city and other cities get. That has not been taken seriously with these councillors.
“It worrying when the statutory consultation requires a few meetings which no councillor attended for at least one of those meetings, despite them saying they wanted to listen and hear people’s views.
“If they use this consultation as a green light for cuts, that’s very dangerous.
“I don’t think they’ve properly explained to people the serious situation this city faces. The services people rely on, particularly the vulnerable, won’t be there anymore.
“The questions in the public consultation document reflected the Tories’ idea of the ‘Big Society’ with people and volunteers taking over libraries and other services. That’s not public services, and it won’t work.”
A demonstration against the cuts starts at the transport museum in Millennium Place, city centre, on February 21 at 12 noon, before councillors meet to finalise the budget at 2pm.
Councillor Damian Gannon, cabinet member for finance, said: “We’re pleased with the public consultation.
“We’ve done more to engage the public with this consultation round, with countless media interviews, public meetings and using social media. Lots of people have had an opportunity to take part. This seems like more party politics by the Nellists.
“With public consultations we need to balance the amount of spending on telling people how badly these cuts are going to affect them, against us not having much money to spend.”