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Facing the Cuts: council budget cuts in Lancashire
Facing the Cuts
Lancashire's councils are facing one of the toughest times they've ever known

BBC local radio stations throughout the country are investigating the state of our town hall coffers.

"Facing the Cuts" has been delving into council budgets and here in Lancashire we've been finding out what services our local authorities are planning to cut and who it's going to affect.

Millions of pounds have been cut from budgets and council jobs and services are all under threat.

Lancashire's councils are facing one of the toughest times they've ever known.

Why? Well most of the money our councils spend comes from central Government. Council Tax only pays for about a quarter of town hall bills. Central government's still reeling from having to bail out the banks and with increasing debt they're going to be putting less into our councils' piggy banks.

Cutting more

So our local authorities are facing some stark choices. How to spend less but continue to provide all those services we've come to expect.

Here in Lancashire, the county council - which provides services for most of us like libraries, social services and looking after the roads (including the gritting) has said it'll cut £36m from the budget over the next 12 months. And as the situation gets worse they're expecting to cut between £48m and £110m over the following three years.

Blackpool Council says it's planning on cutting more than £7m from its budget and has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies and, on the subject of job losses, Blackburn with Darwen Council has indicated it expects the number of jobs to be cut from 3,500 at the beginning of 2010 to 3,000 in three to five years time, cutting a sixth of the workforce.

The impact this is likely to have on services is worrying those who have to rely on them. In the villages of Croston, Banks and Gregson Lane, the library comes every week in the back of a trailer. Lancashire County Council says it can't afford to keep it on the road and it's being cut - to be replaced by a mobile library which will only visit half a day every fortnight.

Jubilation

Lancaster City Council says it can no longer afford to keep the city's market open as it tries to balance its books. It means the traders will have to move out, leaving them angry and fearful of what will happen to them. Thousands of shoppers have now signed a petition to keep the market open.

In Heysham the village's toilets are earmarked for closure, but local people on the neighbourhood council agreed to do up the toilets, and split the day to day running costs with the local authority, rather then see them close.

Pete Whaley, a member of the Neighbourhood Council, said: "The village needs toilets. We got together, had a meeting and decided that we can do this." Lancaster City Council say it could be a solution for other public conveniences and they're willing to listen to similar community groups.

There are many other examples and more cuts could come in the future. If they do, Angela Murphy from Preston says protesting can produce results.

She has a severely autistic son. When the respite centre they used to visit was threatened with closure four years ago, she helped fight to save it. She explained how they felt when their campaign paid off: "Everyone was so relieved when we got the letter. There was a real sense of jubilation.

"But our happiness is tinged with sadness because of all the other families who do not have the support they need".




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