‘Cuts threatening future
of our safety net services’

Blackpool Town Hall where tough decisions are having to be made on spending.
Blackpool Town Hall where tough decisions are having to be made on spending.
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Union chiefs today warned austerity cuts are threatening the very future of council services with Blackpool cited as one of the towns suffering most as a result of reduced spending.

The TUC report, called Austerity Uncovered, says Blackpool has seen its budget slashed by approximately a quarter since 2010 harming services which are “vital lifelines”.

Last week the council revealed it must find savings of £25.2m in the next financial year, with around 300 jobs expected to be lost.

In its report, the TUC says spending on Adult Services has decreased by £3.4m since 2011/12, while Children’s Services has lost central government grants totalling £24m over the last three years.

It says pressure on budgets is impacting already on services.

One example given is of sheltered housing residents missing out on trips for food shopping and leisure because of fewer support staff, risking isolation.

It also highlights cuts in last year’s spending of £480,000 from services including the Pheonix Centre (a mental health unit), and the Geldof Care Unit in Bispham, which looks after people with physical disabilities caused by head injury.

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Another casualty has been Youth Services which the report claims has triggered concerns it will “result in further anti-social problems across the town”.

The report concludes central government must reassess the impact of cuts on towns like Blackpool.

North West TUC regional secretary Lynn Collins said: “Cuts are harming the most vulnerable in our society and in light of the devolution debate that is taking place it is even more important that we set out a proper vision for public services.

“This needs to be one that funds important services such as adult care and social services, not one that cuts to the bone these vital lifelines.”

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “The continual and aggressive erosion of the public sector, not least local government, is now being felt across the country, but especially in deprived northern urban areas like Blackpool.

“The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats seem blind to the damage they are causing. Blackpool has lost £68m since 2010, and is due to lose a further £58m over the next three years.

“Combined with cuts to welfare budgets and chronic underinvestment in the NHS, this represents a threat to even the most basic role of the state as a safety net – and represents their desire to abolish the welfare state entirely.”

But Blackpool North and Cleveleys Conservative MP Paul Maynard said the council needed to work in different ways to fulfil its role of providing services.

He said: “Towns such as Blackpool with high levels of deprivation continue to get a greater share of local government revenue but like any other council, Blackpool is also having to make savings.

“Blackpool Council needs to be innovative in how it works with local charities and other service providers who want to find solutions.”

Blackpool South Labour MP Gordon Marsden said: “I am seeing the impact of these cuts in my casework month by month. Charities and the voluntary sector just don’t have the resources now to take up the slack.”