Axe falls on staff and vital services

Blackpool Town Hall

Blackpool Town Hall

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BLACKPOOL was today left counting the cost of “devastating” cuts with 700 town hall jobs being axed, while libraries, the Illuminations and vulnerable children are among the casualties of a £27m budget reduction.

Boundary Library at Grange Park and Mereside Library will close to save nearly £94,000, while shortening the Lights at South Shore, reducing the number of tableaux at North Shore and savings on the Christmas lights and the Brilliance display will shave nearly £267,000 off spending.

Scaling back Blackpool Young Peoples Service, which includes work and training scheme Connexions, will lose £2m while shutting Hoyle Resource Centre for the elderly at Grange Park will save the council £345,000 and withdrawing support for school PE lessons will save £342,000.

Around 700 council posts will go – but a recruitment freeze and temporary staff coming to the end of their contracts means the number of compulsory redundancies will be pared back to around 350 from the 1,000 at first feared.

However there will be dismay among many vulnerable groups with reductions to services including home helps and Children and Sure Start Centres facing a £500,000 cut. Respite services for carers are also being hit with £170,000 pulled from its budget.

Seafront services including the life-saving beach patrol will lose nearly £125,000, while the events programme, which pulls in millions of visitors to Blackpool each year, is facing a £232,000 budget cut.

Council leader Coun Peter Callow said: “Tough financial times call for some tough decisions which I take no pleasure in making.

“The cuts are so severe we can’t disguise them but we’ve minimised the impact, including the number of compulsory redundancies.

“We were talking about 1,000 and now we are looking at 300 to 350.

“£27m worth of cuts is a huge sum and we’ve tried to protect the vulnerable.”

Labour group leader Coun Simon Blackburn added: “The cuts are focused on the most vulnerable and ordinary, hard working families will be worse off.

“It’s devastating news for anyone who accesses social services and I’m also devastated for all those people who are going to lose their jobs.”

Coun Peter Collins, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We’re looking long-term for the voluntary sector to help us.

“Unfortunately we’ve withdrawn support for school PE so we can maintain other services in other areas. Hopefully schools might be able to adapt and help us retain that element of extra-curricular PE.”

Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said: “The Government who are making too drastic cuts all at once.”

Reductions include £10.3m from children, adults and family services which includes social services; £2.4m from the places directorate which includes tourism; £5.8m from Blackpool Services which includes parks and leisure, which will be restructured, and £3.2m from the chief executives department.

The remainder of the savings have come from back office efficiencies while £2.3m and 100 jobs were saved after staff agreed a package of reduced terms and conditions.

However despite the cuts, £100,000 will be put towards retaining 10 police community support officers, grants of £250,000 for the voluntary sector have been preserved and £300,000 will be used to transfer some council services to community groups.

Public sector workers’ union Unison has said it will consider balloting members over industrial action.