Town hall bosses today laid bare the full devastating cost of Blackpool’s brutal cuts crisis, which will see 700 council posts axed over the next two years and savings of £36m by 2016.
Almost £16m must be slashed from the 2014/15 budget alone, followed by around £20m the following year.
Around 250 jobs will be lost every year under the savage measures, while 100 contracts will also not be renewed each year.
The brunt of the savings, comprising £2.3m, will come from changes to working conditions but some adult services could be lost in their current form and the council is proposing to shut its road safety department.
The Illuminations will continue to receive its £2.2m funding over the next two years but new ways of paying for the attraction will be explored.
This could include charging people in future to drive through part of the Lights.
Savings of around £750,000 will be made by ending free travel on the trams for non-Blackpool residents eligible for pensioners’ travel cards.
Children’s centres are also to come under review to see where money needs to be spent, but frontline social workers will be protected, along with libraries and school crossing patrols.
Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said the council was faced with making some tough decisions because of the cuts crisis, calling the targets “incomprehensible”.
He said: “For the last four years all we have had is brutal cut after brutal cut. The prospect of losing £36m over the next two financial years is incomprehensible.
“How are we meant to find that further cut out of our already decimated budgets? How are we meant to decide what’s more important between keeping the streets clean, protecting children at risk and supporting vulnerable adults?
“It’s an impossible task but one we have to do.”
The proposals lay out years two and three of a three-year programme of cuts, prompted by Government austerity measures.
Coun Blackburn added: “This year each and every service is expected to make a saving, some greater than others but they will all start the next financial year with less staff or money to do their job.
“We have looked over every single penny we spend and prioritised accordingly.
“Social workers are protected along with frontline street cleansing teams, school crossing patrols and libraries.
“We know these are the services that protect the most vulnerable and really matter to the residents of Blackpool.”
Since 2010, when Government cuts to local authority spending were first imposed, around 650 town hall jobs have been lost in Blackpool.
All the council’s 2,591 staff were briefed yesterday about the latest savings proposals, and ‘at risk’ notices are due to be sent out this week to workers whose jobs are under threat.
Coun Blackburn said: “Unfortunately today is the start of a very difficult process for a large number of staff.
“Some staff will have been in this position before and I can only imagine what a terrible experience it is. People who work hard every day do not deserve to lose their jobs but we have no choice.
“Jobs will be lost and services will be affected.”
Despite the huge toll of the cuts already planned, Coun Blackburn warned future years look equally bleak.
He said: “This is the fourth year we have had to making savings on this scale and the picture looks even bleaker in 2015/16. To put into context, since 2010 the council workforce has been reduced by a quarter and since 2011 the budget by £52m.
“You cannot lose this number of employees and this amount of money without people noticing. “
All that we can do is ensure every pound is spent wisely and efficiently and lobby the Government to change its policies to ensure that those councils with greatest need get their fair share of the resource available.”
THE EFFECTS OF THE CUTS AT A GLANCE
All council departments have to make savings, with the main targets being:
• Adult Services: Savings of £1.5m including £480,000 to be cut from the Phoenix Centre (a mental health unit), the Geldof complex care unit in Bispham which looks after people with physical disabilities caused by head injury, and Palmer Supported Tenancies, which provides homes for people in the community suffering from mental health problems.
• While centres may be closed, the service will be recommissioned and taken over by external providers with some funding still coming from the council.
• Built Environment : Savings of £1.7m including an estimated £550,000 from the Transport budget which includes axing the road safety department.
• Council chiefs believe other organisations, such as the fire service, will be able to take over the responsibility.
• Street cleansing and school crossing patrols will be protected.
• Children’s Services: Savings of £1.3m.
• Children’s centres will be reviewed in order to ensure money is going towards supporting the most vulnerable families.
• Frontline social workers will be protected.
• Regeneration, Tourism and Culture: Savings of £348,000.
• Libraries are protected, Marketing Blackpool is being brought back in-house and new ways of funding the Illuminations will be considered for the longer term.
• Leisure and Operational Services: Savings of £1.1m.
• Includes reducing the frequency of green waste bin collections during the winter months.
• Joint working with the Friends of Stanley Park will save on maintenance costs, while it is hoped to generate more income through business development.