JOBS BOMBSHELL: 250 jobs axed at Blackpool Council

Blackpool Town Hall
Blackpool Town Hall

Another 250 jobs are to be axed by Blackpool Council which must save an additional £20m next year.

Staff were called into meetings yesterday to be given the grim news.

It comes on top of 300 jobs lost this year as part of £25m of savings.

Town hall chiefs hope to limit the impact of the cuts on services to £9m, with the other £11m being found from other measures which could include an increase in council tax.

Revenue could also come in from making better use of the council’s commercial property portfolio and financial assets.

Money could be raised from renting out buildings and there will also be a review of car parking. More efficient procurement will also be targeted.

The latest cuts, which are for the 2016/17 budget, mean the council has had to make total savings of £93m since 2010.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “This is the fifth time that I have had to announce multi-million pound cuts and hundreds of job losses.

“It is the day of the year I dread.

“Today we present to the public how we think £9m can be saved from the services they receive each and every day.

“Services they rely on, services that care for their children and families, and services that make a difference to the area in which they live and work.”

The job losses are made up of 200 redundancies and 50 contracts ending.

Adult and children’s services and environmental services are expected to take the brunt of the jobs losses, with further details yet to emerge.

Nearly £1.5m will be axed from the adult social care budget, with services such as Hoyle House respite centre, now based at Mansfield House in Layton, under review for outsourcing to the private sector.

The free school breakfast scheme will be retained, but its £1.3m annual budget will be reduced by £500,000.

Among budgets which are protected is the £2m spent each year on the Illuminations.

All the town’s eight libraries will also be protected, although there is currently a review of opening hours.

Coun Blackburn added: “During the summer we asked Blackpool residents to have their say and let us know how they would make savings.

“Many people commented how difficult an exercise it was and in fact many declared it impossible.

“That is how we feel every year when we look at every penny the council spends and how it can be reduced.

“We have used the views of residents and businesses when formulating our proposals, for example protecting street cleansing and retaining all eight of the council’s libraries.

“There are also areas that we know cannot cope with any further cuts and they will be protected.”

Coun Blackburn said the council had had to make difficult decisions, including the closure of two nurseries at Brunswick and Talbot, and Grange Park Sure Start Centres earlier this year, in order to save other services.

He said: “Our difficult decision earlier this year to close the Sure Start-attached nurseries has allowed us to keep open all of the Sure Start Centres and Children’s Centres. 

“But there are no easy solutions – many services will be affected by these cuts.

“At this stage we have not received our settlement from the Government so we do not know the exact amount we need to save but we are working on the basis it will be £20m.

“Blackpool has been one of the hardest hit councils in the country, being forced to make £93m of cuts since 2010.

“A lot of staff will be facing an uncertain future as a result of today’s news.

“It marks the start of an upsetting time for them and their families and they face losing their income.

“For those that aren’t at risk they will be asked to commit to taking more unpaid leave and delivering services with less money and fewer team members to help them.

“It is a difficult day for all concerned but our commitment to providing quality services to people of Blackpool remains the same. We will make it work because we have to.”

Staff who remain with the council will be asked once more to take an average of five days unpaid leave to save money.

People eligible for voluntary redundancy will be offered an enhanced package if they come forward before December 14.

The budget proposals will go before full council in February.

Council tax

For the past four years the Blackpool’s element of the council tax has been frozen, with a charge of £1,306 for an average band D property in the resort in 2015/16.

But Coun Blackburn said he could not commit to not increasing the charge next year.

He said: “During our budget consultation there was an indication from people that they would consider paying more in council tax in order to save some services, so we are looking at what the options are.

“Up until now our administration has frozen the council tax for four years.

“However in Blackpool, a lot of people live in band A or B properties so when we put the council tax up we don’t bring in as much money.”

Illuminations

Annual budget of £2m is protected.

Coun Blackburn said: “It is an area people often point to and say there is £2m there just for some lights. But they generate £200m to £300m for Blackpool’s wider economy.

“If we were to turn the Illuminations off, demand on other services would rocket on August 31 when the season came to an end.

“It would destroy so much of the hard work that goes into building up the tourist industry.”

School breakfasts scheme

The council launched the school breakfast scheme in January 2013 for the resort’s 11,000 primary school pupils.

Part of the £1.3m cost was met from the public health budget but the government has warned it is set to cut those budgets.

Coun Blackburn said: “The primary school breakfast and milk scheme is a very important part of levelling the extreme health and wellbeing inequalities in Blackpool, which affects pupils ability to learn.

“Three years into the scheme, we know our schools, our children, and their needs very well indeed.

“Based on that experience, we believe we can tailor the programme to meet the needs of each school - maintaining universal provision - whilst still saving £500,000.”

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