Blackpool’s council leader has demanded the Government hand over more spending powers to local authorities as councillors agreed cuts of £25m and the loss of 300 jobs.
Coun Simon Blackburn said devolution to include health budgets, as has been agreed for Greater Manchester authorities, was the way forward because “we don’t want to have to plead poverty every year”.
Giving his speech at the annual meeting of the council to agree the 2015/16 budget, he said putting different public spending budgets into one pot controlled locally would be “pushing power into the hands of those who live and work in our communities.”
It would, he claimed, “make sure we never ever again have to stand here and announce a budget that makes hard working council staff redundant, that we never have to announce a budget that cuts services to those that need them most.”
He said while devolution would not mean more money from central government, it would enable local partners to reshape the way money is spent “to protect jobs, enchance services and deliver hugely positive outcomes for our residents.”
Coun Blackburn earlier told the chamber despite cuts to its spending imposed by central Government, schemes including free breakfasts for primary school pupils, the development of 450 affordable new homes, and the creation of more than 120 apprenticeships at the council, had been achieved.
But he warned it was getting more and more difficult to deliver services with less cash and fewer staff and people would see services “ceasing, reduced or at the very least remodelled and delivered in a radically different way.”
But Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams accused the Labour administraton of wasting money on schemes such as the £650,000 purchase of the Syndicate nightclub, the £100,000 revamp of the Devonshire Road car park and the money spent on putting up no smoking signs in parks and playgrounds.
He said: “This council can’t stop throwing money down the drain.
“I admire the budget for what the financial people have done but I have no faith in the Labour council to deliver it. There will be another mistake around the corner.”
Lib Dem councillor Douglas Green supported the budget but said: “It is alright getting friends groups etc to help in parks etc, where services have been cut, but there are only so many people who will volunteer.”
Total spending for 2015/16 will be £128m, with council tax for an average Band D property set at £1,529, an increase from £1,525 last year due to increases in the charge payable to the police and fire brigade.