COMMUNITY volunteers and residents’ groups in Coventry are being invited to step in to save up to 100 council services facing the axe.
Nearly all libraries, children’s centres, community centres and other council facilities face the axe under radical cost-cutting council plans, the Observer reported last week.
Labour council leaders blame expected coalition Government funding cuts since 2010 of a half by 2017 – equivalent to £95million being removed from Coventry’s economy.
The new “City Centre First” proposal could involve selling or vacating nearly all council community buildings and concentrating services in five “strategic” locations, or “hubs”, mainly in the city centre and ‘deprived areas’.
Finance cabinet member Damion Gannon told a full Coventry City Council meeting this week: “Community residents’ groups and individuals will not only be consulted but will get an opportunity to run the services themselves if they can provide a robust and sensible business plan.”
If not, decisions on closures could be taken by summer next year, after the General Election which could influence future funding levels to councils.
Former Socialist councillor Dave Nellist, of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, said the council was not only now accepting “unnecessary” Westminster cuts without protest, but was planning to “rip the heart out of virtually every community in Coventry.”
The call to community groups mirrors prime minister David Cameron’s “Big Society” vision when the coalition swept to power in 2010 announcing deficit reduction austerity cuts.
Conservative run Warwickshire County Council soon afterwards embarked on library closures and community group takeovers.
Results have been patchy, with some communities complaining library services have either been lost or vastly reduced.
Six children’s centre closures in Coventry two years ago attracted public opposition, as did cutting nursery services at the Sure Start centres for the under-fives.
That could mean libraries, children’s services and community activities being based under one roof in places such as Tile Hill, Binley, Wood End, Foleshill and Radford.
Asked about the affect on vulnerable families from lost children’s centres, or on the elderly from losing community centres on their doorsteps, Coun Gannon added: “We’re having to close a lot of services around the city and we need to be very careful about the route we go down.”
A petition had already been started to “save” Finham library and Conservative leader councillor John Blundell argues relatively prosperous areas where there were still “pockets of deprivation”should not be disproportionately hit.