‘Waste’ slammed as job cuts hit

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Blackpool’s Tories have hit out at plans to axe 250 town hall jobs as part of £16m cuts to next year’s budget.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group, today accused the ruling Labour group of wasting money which could have been used to save jobs.

He also claimed the cuts, announced this week by council leader Coun Simon Blackburn and revealed in The Gazette on Thursday, were being heaped onto next year’s budget rather than being spread into 2015, which is an election year.

Coun Williams said: “I find it incredulous Coun Blackburn continues to blame austerity cuts for his administration’s financial failings and waste. Earlier this year he visited every department in the council and announced all pending cuts would be made this year and that there would be none made in 2015.

“2015 is of course an election year so the motives behind his announcement are very transparent.”

Coun Williams blamed losses from the Illuminations Switch-On, uncollected business rates, the cost of free breakfasts and the cost of putting up no smoking signs in parks as having put the council in financial crisis.

He added: “If you add up all this irresponsible financial waste there is enough to keep all jobs on the council and of course save the essentials services the people of Blackpool will ultimately lose.

“The council financial reserves are at the lowest they have ever been and we are dangerously close to having to sell off valuable assets just to stay afloat.”

But Coun Blackburn hit back, saying the Illuminations Switch-On losses would not cost council tax payers “a single penny” because the cost will be recouped from Marketing Blackpool. He said: “School breakfasts are being funded in part by new Public Health money, and we are confident we will obtain further new monies to fund the scheme in its entirety in future years. Smoking signs in public parks were funded entirely from health budgets.

“Business rate collection has fallen marginally, thanks to the wave of bankruptcies caused by the economic policies of the Conservative Government.

“Our reserves have been used to flatten the curve of job-losses, exactly as we promised the people of Blackpool and the trade unions we would do when we were in opposition - they remain at a level we are comfortable with.

“It would be ludicrous to pile money up under the corporate mattress while making people redundant – as the Tories did when they were in power. These cuts are solely, 100 per cent the fault of the Conservative Government, and a direct result of the vicious and disproportionate attack of poor, urban northern councils.

“I am only glad that in May 2015 people will have the opportunity to elect a Labour Government and a Labour council, to put an end to this madness.”