Services saved despite £8.6m Blackpool Council cuts but council tax to rise

Council tax in Blackpool is set to rise by 2.99 per cent this year as town hall bosses are poised to axe a further £8.6m from the resort’s budget.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Friday, 28th January 2022, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 28th January 2022, 9:34 am

However there are no compulsory job losses this year and council services such as libraries and leisure centres have been protected.

There is an additional £300,000 earmarked for keeping the town’s streets cleaner and safer, including £100,000 for the new CCTV system.

Last year the council cut £20m, 40 jobs were lost and council tax increased by 4.99 per cent.

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Blackpool Council has unveiled its proposed budget for 2022/23

Financial boosts this time round include a £900,000 dividend from the council-owned Sandcastle Water Park which had its most profitable year in 2021/22 as holidaymakers poured back into Blackpool.

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However there is no dividend from Blackpool Transport which continued to suffer from the effects of lockdown. The impact of Covid on council finances overall in 2021/22 is £3.7m.

In order to increase income, the council is proposing to raise parking charges for the first time in five years which will bring in an additional £1m.

Council leader Coun Lynn Williams

Cuts of around £14m had originally been predicted in the 2022/23 budget but an extra £2m of government grants for social care have helped reduce the financial gap.

A nationally negotiated pay rise for staff is also expected to be less than predicted, saving £3.3m on the wage bill.

Each council department has also had to find efficiency savings of two per cent.

Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said: “We know the challenges that our residents and businesses are facing as we come out of the pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is to cut services that are so vitally needed.

“That is why we have set our stall out to protect services and to invest in those that are so important to people; tackling community issues such as cleaner streets and alleyways, and enhanced enforcement.

“At the same time, the regeneration of the town continues apace and its ever-improving tourism offer is putting Blackpool in a strong place to continue its post-COVID recovery and attract visitor numbers that will bolster the town’s economy.

“Every multi-million pound scheme that we see rising from the ground from new homes at Grange Park to the hotel and tram terminus at Talbot Gateway, and the opening of the new Conference and Exhibition Centre at the Winter Gardens is creating local job opportunities and a better life chances for our residents.

“Every penny that we spend is designed to help local people and we continue to actively work with public sector partners, the voluntary sector and the private sector to minimise the cumulative impact of years of central Government cuts on those people who need and depend upon our services.”

The budget also includes increased income generation from contracts with external agencies, and rationalisation of the council’s property portfolio including the transfer of staff out of offices on South King Street.

Although there will be no compulsory redundancies, 15 temporary contracts will not be renewed.

Some voluntary redundancy requests will be agreed where they do not disrupt services and staff will also be asked to take a minimum of five days unpaid leave.

The budget proposals, with total net spending of £160m, will go before the council’s executive committee on Monday February 7.

The £8.6m of savings includes: –

* £200,000 saved from the marketing budget which has been carried over from last year when less was spent as Blackpool enjoyed a tourism boom without the need to advertise as people could not travel abroad.

* A further £300,000 will be saved in the town’s tourism spending this year by delivering the events programme more efficiently, although no events have been dropped.

* The council’s catering service is set to bring in additional revenue of £100,000 after winning more external contracts including to supply meals to more schools, and is set to expand its offering.

* £700,000 is predicted to be saved on funding free bus travel because fewer pensioners who are eligibe for free fares are using public transport post-lockdown.

Nearly £1.1m is expected to be raised from parking fee increases to bring the resort more in line with other tourism destinations such as York, although bosses say charges will still remain lower than most other places.

There is also a saving of £1.2m on pensions contributions due to the scheme currently being over funded.

Chief executive Neil Jack said the Sandcastle Water Park had “had its best year ever in terms of profit” enabling the council to receive a £900,000 dividend, compared to £250,000 in previous years.

High spending departments including Children Services and Adult Social Care are also hoping to make small savings. Better family support is aimed at reducing the number of children living in care which is costly, while adult services expect to receive more government funding through the NHS.

The measures mean working balances can also be replenished to a level of around £6m.

Extra money for services includes –

£300,000 into enforcement, CCTV, cleaning of streets and alleyways.

£200,000 into transportation for children with Special Educational Needs.

£150,000 into The Edge at Stanley Buildings on Church Street, for small business starter units.

Council tax

The proposed 2.99 per cent increase is in line with government expectations and includes one per cent for social care.

Coun Williams said despite the rise, Blackpool’s council tax remained one of the lowest in Lancashire.

Currently average band D bills are £1,997.

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