Libraries, children’s centres and leisure facilities in Walsall could all be axed after the borough council announced it faced £86 million worth of budget cuts over the next four years.
The Black Country borough’s Labour administration has said it will do all it can to protect the most vulnerable, but warned that much valued services would be lost to the austerity measures, following in the footsteps of Birmingham City Council.
It is also considering introducing an optional charge for garden waste collection – similar to the controversial one adopted by Birmingham City Council this year.
While youth services, the Walsall Museum and street cleaning services are likely to face cuts. There are also expected to be in the region of 482 redundancies over the four years.
The £86 million, of which they expect to lose £29 million in 2015/16, is out of a total budget of £633 million. More than half is spent on schools and social services for children and adults.
Labour took control of the authority from a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in August this year after a by-election victory handed it a slender majority.
They were quick to blame their predecessors, as well as the Government, for landing the council with financial difficulties.
Council leader Sean Coughlan said: “We took control of the council in August and in the following weeks we have learnt of a catalogue of political mismanagement by the previous administration.”
He highlighted the fact they had frozen council tax for three of the last four years denying the council an extra £6.2 million income, while the Government had also cut council tax benefit.
Coun Coughlan added: “This is not what we want, it’s certainly not what we would have chosen but if we are to protect the vulnerable and core services we have to deal with the realities of a Government that is hell-bent on an austerity policy – whatever the cost – and the results of past fiscal irresponsibility.”
Opposition Conservative leader Coun Mike Bird called it a 'slash and burn' budget and claimed it was politically motivated to protect areas which vote Labour over Tory or Lib Dem - where many of the libraries under threat are based.
He said: "I'm disgusted the Labour Party has taken the stance it has. For years, we protected children's centres and libraries and we would be looking elsewhere for cuts now.
"The charges for green waste are a definite no-no as far as we are concerned - everyone in Birmingham knows how popular that is."
He suggested that half-a-million pounds a year could be saved if Walsall moved to four-year council elections,
Coun Bird (Con Pheasey) also hit back at the accusation he had left the council short by freezing council tax.
"I think it is wrong to increase council tax when you are reducing services. But that doesn't seem to bother the Labour group," he added.