Leader calls for Prime Minister to meet workers

Coun Simon Blackburn - updated pic August 2015 - please use this one
Coun Simon Blackburn - updated pic August 2015 - please use this one
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Blackpool Council’s leader Simon Blackburn has written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to personally explain the Government’s cuts to workers who are set to lose their jobs.

But the letter has been blasted by his Conservative opposite number on the council Tony Williams as ‘bizarre, distorted, quite childish and not factual’.

The letter slams David Cameron for lobbying Oxfordshire County Council where he lives over the cuts it is making, due to the reduced settlement from government – and goes on to talk about the measures Blackpool Council is having to take to balance its books.

In the letter, Coun Blackburn states: “ Having removed over £68m from the people of Blackpool since you became Prime Minister, you will no doubt be aware that it is proposed to cut a further £20m from our budgets in the forthcoming financial year.

“Blackpool’s Labour Council (part of the ‘most efficient part of the public sector’, as you described Local Government in 2009, when you were trying to get into power) has worked hard to mitigate against the cruellest effects of these cuts – we have nonetheless had to make over 1,500 employees redundant.

“In order to keep our Surestart centres open, we have had to close the nurseries attached to them. This bald fact did not of course stop the Leader of the Conservative Group on Blackpool Council, and Paul Maynard MP, from shedding crocodile tears and staging placard waving protests.”

The letter goes on to state: “Prime Minister, I could provide you with countless similar examples – ranging from the Conservative Leader in Blackpool demanding that we means-test the school breakfast programme that is necessary because of your party’s ongoing poverty-creation strategy – to the bizarre sight of the Conservative MP for Blackpool North demanding that we subsidise residents of other parts of Lancashire to use Blackpool’s trams. I could, but we both know it won’t make any difference.

“I would like to invite you to come to Blackpool, and meet with the 250 council staff whom your policies will put out of work this year, so that you can explain to them, and their families, how you believe this ridiculous policy of austerity is in their best, long-term interests.”

But Coun Tony Williams said he had never called for means testing and MP Paul Maynard had not asked Blackpool Council to subsidise tram use. He said: “I found Coun Blackburn’s letter to the PM to be bizarre, distorted, quite childish and not factual.

“Firstly I have never asked for people to be means tested in regard to free school breakfasts what I have stated is that I would integrate the scheme into a breakfast club environment and more recently called for the leader of the council to scrap it after he announced he would be reducing the funding.

“I also refute the idea that I cried crocodile tears over the closing of the nurseries on Grange Park I was in fact asked by parents to try and help them keep them open and I was happy to try and do that.

“He continues to blame his own mistakes – incredibly bad investment decisions, financial disasters, unnecessary quangos and a series of bad choices on the government cuts.”