Town hall leaders were urged to concentrate on the ‘real issues’ instead of ‘playing monopoly’ with residents’ money as councillors met last night to agree Blackpool Council’s budget for the coming year.
Spending of just under £123m was agreed, with a council tax rise of 3.99 per cent meaning an overall increase of £56 for people living in an average Band D property when precepts to pay for the police, fire service and adult social care are taken into account.
The Band D charge will increase to £1,585 from £1,529 last year, as the council increased its element of council tax for the first time in five years.
The council has cut £25m from its budget, with the loss of 300 jobs, including 50 staff on contracts.
Council leader, Coun Simon Blackburn, said the authority had been hit hard by government cuts.
He said: “This year Blackpool will face the single biggest cut to its core spending power of any upper tier authority in the whole of the country.”
He said tough decisions had had to be taken such as the closure of two nurseries last year in order to protect Sure Start centres.
But services such as libraries had been protected, as well as street cleansing “because the people of Blackpool have told us that is very important to them.”
The council leader hit out at the distribution of transitional grants, aimed at easing the pain of government cuts, to rural councils instead of towns like Blackpool which had missed out. He added: “We take our responsibility to the people of Blackpool very seriously but when the Government assumes we put council tax up and actually builds it into their own figures, we have to do it.”
But Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposing Conservative group, accused the council of continuing to waste money on projects such the purchase of the Syndicate building, £3.2m spent on consultants in 10 months, and staffing agency costs of £68,000, asking ‘how many jobs could this money have saved?”
He said: “The town has never been so much in debt, almost £180m and they are still knocking on the banker’s door.”
Coun Williams added: “Stop wasting money, start to fix the real issues affecting the town instead of playing monopoly.”
Council tax rises: How you will be affected
Council tax 2016/17 Council tax 2015/16
Band A £1,057 £1,019
Band B £1,233 £1,189
Band C £1,409 £1,359
Band D £1,585 £1,529
Band E £1,938 £1,869
Band F £2,290 £2,209
Band G £2,642 £2,549
Band H £3,171 £3,059