£5m more in cuts: Blackpool’s libraries and leisures centres could now be at risk

Blackpool Sports Centre

Blackpool Sports Centre

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Leisure centres and libraries could be under threat in Blackpool after further budget cuts of £5m were announced.

The latest savings must be made on top of cuts of £20m unveiled last November.

It means services which town hall chiefs had hoped to protect could now be at risk.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn today warned: “There aren’t many options left.”

Already 200 council workers are facing redundancy with another 50 contracts being ended as part of the savings from next year’s spending.

It is not known yet whether the latest blow could mean more job losses.

It’s an absolute disgrace that having already announced figures that suggested we would be facing £20m in cuts in the summer, George Osborne has decided to drop an additional £5m bombshell on Blackpool over the Christmas period

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn

The further cuts have been revealed after the council received its government settlement for 2016/17 which has been reduced by 4.9 per cent compared to the current year.

The settlement is the funding the council receives from central government to make up its budget along with other revenue mainly raised from the council tax.

Coun Blackburn said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that having already announced figures that suggested we would be facing £20m in cuts in the summer, George Osborne has decided to drop an additional £5m bombshell on Blackpool over the Christmas period.

“We had prepared a budget that saved £20m, which already included many difficult decisions but now we are going to have to find another £5m.

Palatine Sports Centre

Palatine Sports Centre

“When we were examining possible savings we looked at what £25m worth of cuts would look like and decided there were things on that list like our libraries, leisure centres and children’s centres that we simply couldn’t cut because of how important they are to the local community.

“Those proposals might now have to come back on to the table, an idea I find repellent, because of this change in our savings target.

“I’ve not changed my mind that those are things that we shouldn’t have to cut, but after five years of the Tory government slamming Blackpool with some of the harshest cuts in the country, when the government drops £5m more cuts on your doorstep than you were expecting then there aren’t many options left.”

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, said he was investigating why another raft of cuts had to be made.

He said: “The council has already carried out an exercise looking at where it can cut library opening hours.

“Closing libraries is always contentious, but there are other ways of providing the service, for example a library could be put in another building.

“Paul Maynard, MP, and I will be contacting Greg Clark (Minister for Communities and Local Government) and also Mr Osborne to try and understand why there appears to be a further reduction.

“However there are other routes that the council can take to safe guard our cultural services including potential outsourcing, amalgamation and the third sector.

“The Government has however been generous recently in regard to our Coastal Communities Funding and the Coastal Revival Fund.

“We received £2m for improvements to the Illuminations and a further £3m investment into the Winter Gardens.”

Communities leaders said they were shocked at the prospect of more cuts.

Angie Buss, chairman of the Revoe Residents Association, said they would be concerned if either Revoe Library or the children’s centre at Revoe Primary School were affected.

She said: “We wouldn’t want to lose our library or our children’s centre.

“We are a deprived area and a lot of people are out of work. They don’t have their own computers so they use the library for job searches.

“The children’s centre is vital in picking up on issues affecting families and helping young mums.

“Leisure centres are important too because they are part of helping people keep healthy.”

Brian Coope, who took part in last year’s failed campaign to keep two council nurseries open, said: “We all know Blackpool has its problems, but other councils seem to cope far better than ours.

“If only the council would think outside the box and work more with volunteers, faith groups, charities, third sector and most easily the private sector.

“Sometimes when you offer to help it is like pushing water up a hill.”