Leader’s absence prompts outrage

Town hall planners will consider the application for a travellers site.
Town hall planners will consider the application for a travellers site.
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The leader of Blackpool Council has come under fire for missing a full meeting of the council just weeks after the announcement of massive cutbacks.

Coun Simon Blackburn (pictured) attended a meeting of the Local Government Association (LGA) in London on Wednesday instead of answering questions in the council chamber.

Conservative opposition group leader Coun Tony Williams accused Coun Blackburn of denying councillors the opportunity to debate the cuts.

The council revealed on January 9 it must find savings of £25m in the coming financial year, with around 300 jobs set to be lost.

Coun Williams said: “The LGA is not compulsory to any member of the council to attend. It is by choice.

“I do understand those 
attending get paid for their 
attendance.

“We have just announced 300 redundancies and 
serious cutbacks to frontline services.

“This would have been a good opportunity to debate some of the items that have already been laid out in the budget and possibly offer some positive and good critique to what has been proposed, that could have made differences.

“We have not been given that opportunity.

“Coun Blackburn could have given his apologies to the LGA and stood here and answered questions from the opposition and the people of Blackpool.”

Coun Williams also claimed Blackpool gained very little benefit from the LGA. Following the meeting Coun Blackburn defended his decision to miss the council meeting.

He said: “I am in London on Wednesday and Thursday of this week in my capacity as a member of the LGA Councillors Forum, and deputy whip of the LGA Labour Group – neither post is paid.

“Blackpool Council has had huge amounts of input from the LGA over the past four years of our administration – providing us with support and capacity worth a small fortune.”

Deputy leader Coun Fred Jackson stepped in during the council meeting to take questions from opposition party members.

He said attending LGA meetings brought opportunities “to bring pressure to bear on people in government”, and added: “I think Coun Blackburn is doing a very good job on behalf of Blackpool.”

The budget will be discussed at the next full meeting of the council on Friday, February 27.