No stopping massive cuts

Protest at Blackpool Town Hall ahead of council budget meeting
Protest at Blackpool Town Hall ahead of council budget meeting
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A LAST minute addition of £500,000 into Blackpool Council’s budget was not enough to stave off widespread dismay as cuts totalling £27m were voted in by the ruling Conservatives.

Cost-cutting measures include the closure of two libraries, and the loss of adult services such as home helps and sheltered housing wardens while £2m will be axed from Blackpool Young Peoples Services.

Residents packed into the public gallery to hear the Tories justify the savings which will also see 750 town hall posts go, with around 350 compulsory redundancies.

Council leader Coun Peter Callow said; “It is with no pleasure that I am presenting a budget to the council for which the starting point has been to take some £27m of funds out of the running costs for the council and reduces capital spend by over a third.”

He added: “I am not going to pretend this amount can be saved without a major impact on some services and at a cost to jobs. But our approach has been to ensure the most vulnerable children and adults are protected.”

He told yesterday’s council meeting £500,000 had been found from an underspend in this financial year, allowing extra cash to be put into some areas – £100,000 into Blackpool Young People’s Council, £50,000 to protect jobs at Vitaline, £200,000 to adult services, £50,000 to support redundant staff who wished to set up in business, and £100,000 to spring clean residential streets.

But Labour group leader Coun Simon Blackburn accused the Tories of hitting the poorest residents and derided the additional cash as “having been found down the back of a settee”.

He said: “It is only cosmetic, because this budget will still cut a massive £26.6m from services the people of Blackpool rely on. That’s a reduction of getting on for 20 per cent.

“But will your council tax come down by 20 per cent? In a word, no.

“In fact your council tax will not only remain the same, but Coun Callow and Mr Cameron expect you to look happy about paying the same money and getting 20 per cent less service.”

Coun Blackburn highlighted cuts including withdrawal of support for PE in schools, the loss of £500,000 from Sure Start centres, reduction in the pupil welfare service, and savings of £165,000 from clothing allowances for deprived children.

He also said his group would save Boundary Library at Grange Park from closure using volunteers and cash from ward budgets.

Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Doug Green called for more to be done to save money by cutting red tape.

He said: “We all abhor reductions in services, especially those most needed.

“But not once in that excellent speech did Coun Blackburn say where the alternative cuts would have to be made.

“The vast majority of council services are with the most vulnerable so where are the cuts going to be made?”

The council agreed a budget of £147m, with both Labour and the Lib Dems voting against.

It was confirmed council tax would be frozen at current levels.