As reported in yesterday’s Gazette, Blackpool Council has announced devastating cuts which will see 700 jobs lost over the next two years.
A total of £36m is set to be cut from Blackpool Council’s budget by 2016, with £16m of that to be slashed by 2014/15.
Around 250 jobs a year are set to be lost, with a voluntary redundancy scheme currently being offered to employees.
All departments will be forced to make savings, although the main cuts will be made to adult services, transport, tourism and leisure.
Affected people across the resort have given DAVID SHARMAN their reaction.
‘Another blow’ to business
Traders and taxi drivers have described plans to introduce a congestion charge between North and Central Piers during the Illuminations (pictured) as “another blow” to business.
The Illuminations is set to retain £2.2m of funding over the next two years, but alternative revenue sources are currently being considered.
Lisa Rowland, owner of Blackpool Souvenirs, on the Promenade, said: “It’ll put people off coming.
“If the weather’s bad like this year people who go up and down in their cars won’t bother.
“It’s another blow.”
Stephen Buckley, committee member of Blackpool Licensed Taxi Operators Association, said: “It won’t work because people won’t come, I can’t understand what the logic is.
“They’re just driving people away from the town.
“How would they differentiate between somebody going through the Lights and somebody who’s just trying to get home?
“You’ll just have severe congestion through the town centre because people would rather miss that stretch and join again after North Pier.”
Tory councillor Coun Maxine Callow, who is a previous portfolio holder for tourism, added: “It will put a lot of people off coming to Blackpool - it is after all supposed to be the greatest free show on earth.
“I appreciate you get people who drive through and don’t donate any money but that’s always been a problem.”
But Shirley Hunt, from the Friends of the Illuminations, has supported the idea.
She said: “I always thought everyone should donate money.
“We know how hard it’s been in the last two years trying to get people involved and to get some money out of people.
“I’m sad that people are losing their jobs but I feel anything that can raise extra revenue for the Illuminations has got be a good thing.”
Tourists and members of the public have supported the idea too.
James and Sue Jennings are currently on holiday from Sale, in Cheshire.
Mrs Jennings, 56, said: “I suppose someone’s got to pay for it, but there are people who will see it as an enforced payment rather than a charitable contribution.
“People have been too comfortable with having the entertainment for nothing.
“If people don’t want to pay they can get out their cars and walk.”
Mr Jennings, 61, added: “We always contribute anyway, you don’t get anything for nothing.”
John Garnham, 66, from Cherry Tree Road, Marton, said: “It’s a way of getting more money because as we all know many people come, drive through the lights and go away again without paying anything so nobody gets any benefit.”
New budgets could put lives at risk
Fire union chiefs have warned cuts to road safety services could put lives at risk.
Blackpool Council’s road safety team is set to be axed with an estimated £550,000 to be scalped from the transport budget.
Council chiefs have suggested organisations such as the fire service could take up the shortfall.
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is currently considering £13m of cuts itself, which could see Blackpool fire station lose one of its engines.
Chris Molloy, the Fire Brigades Union’s Blackpool representative, said: “The cuts seems to be gathering pace, where will they end?
“It seems to be an addiction.
“Any cuts to the road safety message we put out with the council is obviously going to have an effect on the safety of the public.
“It’s become one of the major hazards, for the fire service it’s just as big as fires.
“We have quite a good record here in Blackpool and to jeopardise that just seems crazy.
“It’s yet again putting lives at risk for the sake of a few quid and this is driven by central Government.”
Leisure services under threat
Cuts to leisure services will also see Friends groups take more responsibility for the upkeep of the town’s parks.
£1.1m is set to be lost from the council’s leisure and operational services.
The cuts will also see the frequency of green waste collections reduced during winter months.
Elaine Smith (pictured), chairman of the Friends of Stanley Park, said: “It’s disappointing but it was obvious it was going to happen as soon as the government cuts came.
“It doesn’t take much common sense to realise leisure services are going to be first hit, but we’ve got to keep the parks open and running.
“We put on all the bands in the bandstand and we’ve got people who go out picking up litter.
“All the Friends groups are doing this and Blackpool is run by a lot of wonderful volunteers in all services.”
************************** Worries for adult services
£1.5m will be cut from Blackpool Council’s adult services.
Among those to be hit will the Phoenix Centre, which offers supported living for people being rehabilitated for serious mental health disorders, and Bispham’s Geldof complex care unit, which offers care for people who have suffered serious head injuries.
Palmer Supported Tenancies, which provides house share accommodation and round-the-clock monitoring and care for people with mental health disorders, will also go.
The Phoenix Centre will operate with a reduced service, it is proposed.
The other centres will be closed but the services will be recommissioned and taken over by external providers.
Mental health campaigner Lin Jones, who serves as a public governor representing Blackpool at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “These cuts are not forward thinking.
“The more they cut back these services, the more people are going to have difficulty.
“I don’t think there’s much forethought given to this.
“The whole thing is a disgrace.”
Council’s four year plan to save £300m
Other local authorities have also announced cuts to their services.
Lancashire County Council says it will cut £50m in the next year as part of a four-year plan to save £300m.
All staff are to be offered the chance to apply for voluntary redundancy, although no firm numbers have yet been given on how many jobs will be lost.
Coun Jennifer Mein (pictured), leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “My administration and the council’s officers are moving heaven and earth to ensure that we can continue to safeguard the vulnerable and deliver high quality services to the people of Lancashire, while also balancing the books.
“But people should be under no illusions – in 2018 the council’s budget will be half what it was in 2010, which means the council will be significantly smaller and will look very different.
“The cuts we are dealing with are of such severity that we have no option but to look at radical solutions for how we cope.”
No job cuts are expected at Wyre or Fylde Councils.
A spokesperson for Fylde council said: “We have been steadfast in protecting frontline services and have balanced the books through efficiency savings and prudent financial management, which has allowed us to freeze council tax for three years running.
“Our budget deficit has been met by working differently behind the scenes including a review of our organisational structures, a new waste management contract, bringing our street cleaning service in-house and the creation of a single depot facility at Copse Road.”
A spokesman for Fylde Council said: “We haven’t yet had any redundancies whereas other councils have had to slam the brakes on and reduce their numbers.”