Leader red-faced as £20k ‘vanishes’

he City Learning Centre on Grange Park
he City Learning Centre on Grange Park
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BLACKPOOL’S Labour leader has been left red faced over his bold offer to help save an under threat library.

Controversy was sparked earlier this month after Simon Blackburn offered to use £20,000 of his ward budget to fend off the closure of Grange Park’s Boundary Library – even though it is not in his ward.

Coun Simon Blackburn

Coun Simon Blackburn

Questions were further raised when it was revealed Coun Blackburn’s partner Gillian Campbell was standing as a Labour candidate in Park ward –where the Grange Park library is situated. Tories claimed it was blatant electioneering for the Labour group.

But the matter has now ended in embarrassment after a mix-up revealed there was never £20,000 to give Grange Park.

Coun Blackburn hit the headlines this week after labelling Blackpool FC “donkey botherers” on social networking site Facebook during a recent match between the Seasiders and his team, Blackburn Rovers.

In this case, the Labour leader said town hall finance staff mistakenly told him and Brunswick colleague Gary Coleman, there was money left in their ward budget to sink the cash into a book fund at Boundary Library, which is set to close as part of council cutbacks.

But a miscalculation means the budget had actually already been spent.

Coun Blackburn said: “Unfortunately due to a mistake made in good faith, we are not able to carry out our original pledge to put in £20,000 from Brunswick.”

Coun Blackburn said it was usual for councillors to support a library used by their constituents and he was still looking for ways of keeping the library open.

He added: “The Labour group will continue to look for ways to support Boundary Library.

“Our two candidates on Park ward have pledged their £20,000 ward budget if they are elected and the Queens Park Residents Association are continuing to support residents to keep the library open.”

The mix-up has disappointed one councillor.

Layton councillor Roy Haskettt said money should have been put into Layton Library as it neighbours Brunswick.

He said: “Coun Blackburn now seems to be confused over the matter and I’m disappointed for the people of Brunswick and Layton.”

Money will now have to be found from elsewhere if Boundary Library is to be saved and children who use its services for homework and extra curricular study will have to make alternative arrangements.

Father Bob Horn, from Christ the King Church in Grange Park, said: “I’m sad one possibility of saving the Boundary Library appears to have evaporated.

“I’ve not spoken to many residents but people, including schools, are deeply anxious.”

Meanwhile, Tory Tim Cox is planning to run in the Brunswick ward against Coun Blackburn in this May’s local council elections, after switching from Ingthorpe ward and deciding against stepping down.

Coun Cox said: “I was astonished the Brunswick ward councillors were unable to find anything within Brunswick to spend their ward budget on.

“It seems bizarre the Labour leader has chosen to disregard the needs of the residents. Brunswick is not an affluent ward and has people and projects which could and should have been supported.”

Coun Blackburn told The Gazette he welcomes the challenge.

He said: “I’m sure the residents of Brunswick will make an informed decision in the ballot box.”