Opposition leader in library cash storm

Labour leader Simon Blackburn
Labour leader Simon Blackburn
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BLACKPOOL’S Labour leader was today accused of using taxpayers cash to help his partner win a seat on the council.

Simon Blackburn has agreed to put £20,000 from his ward budget into a scheme to save Grange Park’s Boundary Library from closure.

The library is not in Coun Blackburn’s own Brunswick ward, but Park Ward where his partner Gillian Campbell is contesting the seat at May’s local elections.

Tory council leader Coun Peter Callow today branded the move “blatant electioneering”.

But Coun Blackburn, who represents Brunswick ward, hit back and says there is nothing devious about the deal to save a library in another ward and said it was used by a number of his constituents.

He and fellow Brunswick councillor Gary Coleman have agreed to allocate £15,000 for children’s and teenagers’ books, and £5,000 for adults’ books in support of a proposal for the Queens Park Residents Association to help run the library.

They say the money is left over and would be best used to save the library.

But Coun Callow fumed: “I think it’s absolutely disgraceful Coun Blackburn is trying to promote his partner’s bid to win the Park Ward seat and in so doing is depriving the residents of the ward he is representing.

“He is wanting to boost her chance. It’s blatant electioneering and mis-use of those funds.”

Ward budgets are allocated to councillors to spend on community projects put forward by residents and are regularly used by councillors to support library book funds to the tune of several hundred pounds.

Coun Tony Williams, cabinet member for culture and communities on Blackpool Council, said: “You put money into the library your constituents use, but no members of Boundary library live in Brunswick ward – they all live on Grange Park.”

Coun Blackburn said ward funds had already been used to fund projects in Brunswick and it was usual for councillors to direct other funds to libraries not necessarily in their ward.

He said: “Not all councillors have a library in their ward so give money for a nearby library.

“We haven’t got one, so we can either put money into Layton library, which is being kept open, or we can use it to pump prime a library threatened with closure.

“Gillian is my partner and I’m very clear about that on all the election literature, it is no secret.”