Your chance for a say on spend cuts

Blackpool Council Leader Simon Blackburn
Blackpool Council Leader Simon Blackburn
Have your say

A FAIRNESS Commission is to be set up across Blackpool to give as many people as possible a say on services and cutbacks.

The scheme is being brought in by Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn who said he wants to make the town a “fairer place”.

He added: “Decisions which councils and the Government make do not have the same impact on everybody.

“When the council had to cut its budget by £28m in February, it meant it had a disproportionate affect on groups in the community, and that’s where we need to make small but significant changes.”

Coun Blackburn (pictured) said the framework of the commission had already been used in reducing the number of senior managers at the council to save £2m – some of which went to keeping Boundary Library on Grange Park open and also in reducing councillor allowances and first class travel to help keep open stroke recovery centre Hoyle House, also on Grange Park.

The scheme is devised to give people affected by cuts a stronger say in how they are implemented.

Mr Blackburn added: “With Hoyle House we felt a service for very vulnerable people was being closed, which would have had a further impact on the health service such as people being kept in hospital a lot longer.

“We have a clear sense of social justice – but as we move forward, we need a more systematic approach.”

Islington pioneered the use of a Fairness Commission. Despite its reputation as a well-off area, it is one of the most deprived areas in England and has many low earners.

It is using the system to look at healthcare, incomes, work, families, community safety and housing issues.

But former Tory council leader Coun Peter Callow fears the idea will penalise the affluent and is a ploy to win votes.

Coun Callow said: “This is the thin end of the wedge and over a period of time ward budgets will be sorted out so the more deprived wards get more money than the affluent ones. If that’s the ultimate aim it’s divisive.”

Current opposition leader Coun Peter Evans added: “We understand if they did this they would move budgets from the more affluent wards to the poorer wards and from wards which haven’t spent the full allocation to wards which have.”

But Coun Blackburn refuted those claims. He said: “We won’t be saying we’ll be increasing the amount of funding for some geographic areas on the back of cuts in others – it’s about how we get the most value for every pound we spend.”

The idea behind the Fairness Commission will be discussed at area forums in October and November.

Coun Blackburn added: “The aim is to involve the people of Blackpool much more in these decisions. The more people involved, the better decision you get.”