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Lancashire councils budgeting for spending cuts
Spending Cuts
BBC Radio Lancashire looks at how councils are making efficiencies

Earlier this year, BBC Radio Lancashire revealed that councils are facing one of the toughest times they have ever known.

The Facing the Cuts investigation found that millions of pounds are to be cut from council budgets this year and jobs and services are under threat.

As the county prepares for the axe to fall, we look at how councils are bracing themselves for some lean times ahead.

'Spending Cuts' finds out...

Efficiencies

The cuts come at a time when local councils have been working to improve their towns and local areas to make Lancashire a better place to live.

Some projects are already on hold but now it's up to councils to decide the best way to make efficiencies whilst trying to keep up services.

Blackpool Tower
Blackpool Council are trying to buy the Tower and the Winter Gardens

Preston Council wants to press ahead with the Tithebarn project to transform the city centre.

Blackburn with Darwen Council, having seen the Mall shopping centre being extended, also has ambitious plans for the rest of the town.

In Hyndburn, Pendle, Burnley and Rossendale new homes have been built by Regenerate Pennine Lancashire while millions of pounds had been earmarked to transform the county's secondary schools.

All of these projects could be affected... the buzz phrase from Whitehall is "it's under review".

The Building Schools for the Future project, started by Labour to build new secondary schools, also comes under the "review" category, confirmed in a statement in the Commons by the Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Deprivation

The new schools in Burnley and Pendle are up and running, but Blackburn with Darwen is still working on its new plans, and Preston, Hyndburn and Blackpool have also been earmarked for new schools.

The organisation which is building new houses in the run down areas of the east of the county - Regenerate Pennine Lancashire - is one of ten Pathfinder schemes which will face a total cut of £50m.

The North West Development Agency, which has funded many projects around the county like the revamp of the Midland Hotel in Morecambe, and such agencies are also facing major reductions in funding. It's not clear how much, though.

All the councils say they need the money to tackle the deprivation which still exists in many areas.

Fair system?

Rows of boarded up houses, graffiti on the walls and empty streets, there's no denying that the Daneshouse area of Burnley is in need of some TLC.

One resident told BBC Radio Lancashire's political reporter Liz De Courcey she hopes "to get out one day" from the neighbourhood.

Daneshouse, Burnley
The Daneshouse area in Burnley is in need of some TLC

The Government has drawn up a list of the reductions in grants each council will face.

Ten councils will face the maximum cut of 2% with four of them here in Lancashire; Preston, Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn.

Is this a fair system? The Chief Executive of Burnley Steve Rumbelow thinks not. "I think the most disappointing thing is how the Government has set about creating the total figure and the formula they have applied.

"This has had a disproportionate effect on some local district councils because it is those councils, considered to be deprived, that have suffered the most which does not seem to be an outcome any Government would want to achieve."

Mr Rumbelow says the impact will be felt. "It will affect real services for real people. In a place like Burnley we get additional money to tackle problems such as unemployment, really challenging issues like creating more jobs and it is the money which has been hit."

Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackpool Council, Lancashire's two unitary authorities, face grant cuts of between £3m to £4m.

Lancashire County Council, which provides most of the services for many of us, has already saved some £21m in drawing up its annual budget.

'Challenge'

It recently announced the closure of four recycling centres saving £1m but now has to find another £15m to £20m. It will mean reductions in services but we don't yet know where.

Deputy council leader Albert Akinson said: "We will certainly have to reduce spending in some areas to meet this challenge but we're well placed to do this in a controlled way and balance the budget."

The county's number one road scheme, the long awaited Heysham link road which would provide a direct route to the M6 motorway is now on hold. The Government is cancelling the planned public inquiry and has told the Lancashire County Council it could seek alternative funding - highly unlikely in the current climate.

A plan to improve bus services between Blackburn with Darwen and Hyndburn - costing some £50m - called Pennine Reach is also on hold. It would have meant brand new bus stations and buses. When it will happen is anyone's guess.

It's been suggested details of where the axe will fall will become clearer after the emergency budget next week but at the moment the county is bracing itself for a longer and more sustained period of austerity than arguably it's ever felt before.




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