Multi-million shake-up to rock council services

The Fleetwood Knott End Ferry is a potential victim of the cuts
The Fleetwood Knott End Ferry is a potential victim of the cuts

Proposals for multimillion pound cuts and the biggest shake up in services Lancashire County Council has ever seen will be revealed next week.

A leaked document seen by The Gazette reveals massive cuts, including £5.6m from the county’s bus services, £2.7m from the highways budget and £5m from the libraries and museums budget.

Where the axe will fall

Where the axe will fall

Figures are due to be released on Monday and council workers, living in the shadow of possible redundancy, will be briefed about the proposed changes, which will affect many of their jobs.

Many services could go, others will be scaled down and many buildings could be sold off over the next two years.

But still councillors have predicted the council will be broke within two years – despite planning to dip heavily into its reserves.

The Gazette understands proposals under discussion this week include:

Things are very, very bad already. I’m surprised people aren’t already on the streets to be honest. They are going to cut so deep

• Reviewing the future of all county council buildings and relocating many services to county hall

• Cutting £5.6m from public bus services in the coming year

• Cutting £9.2 m from the Community Wellbeing fund in 2016/17

• Slashing a further £2.7m from the highways budget in 2016/17 on top of £946,000 plus already agreed

Tory leader Coun Geoff Driver

Tory leader Coun Geoff Driver

• Cutting £1.3m from the skills, learning and development budget next year

• A £640,000 cut from the Youth Offending Team budget

• Multi million pound cuts in waste services, including cuts at household waste recycling centres

• Total library cuts rising to £4.1m and museums and cultural services losing £1.3m from budgets in 2016/17.

• An extra £450,00 off street lighting

• Cutting £1.8m off transport to day centres and an extra £282,000 plus off school transport costs.

Even the Knott End ferry is listed as a possible victim, with a suggestion that £85,000 of council funding could be cut.

The Gazette understands that with target savings of another £66m on top of £15.3 m already agreed for 2016/17 the council would be forced to dip into its reserves for another £68.7m to keep certain services afloat.

Coun Mike Barrowclough, a Wyre councillor for Fleetwood, said: “If the Fleetwood to Knott End ferry were lost it would be a major setback.

“It is an essential service, not just for Fleetwood folk, but for people in Knott End who have just lost their last remaining bank branch.

“They also rely on the ferry to get over to Fleetwood to see the doctors and to go shopping.

“It is also important for tourism, so it has multiple uses.

“Its loss would be another nail in the coffin for our transport infrastructure, because we still don’t have a rail link and the A585 is not fit for purpose.”

He added: “The councillors in Fleetwood will do all we can to fight to keep in place those vital services which are under threat as a result of the Tory Government cutbacks.”

Anna Stefani, proprietor of the Ferry Café on The Esplanade, which takes its name from the service, said: “It would be a terrible blow because the ferry is an attraction for the town.

“Personally, I would hate to see it go because it brings people to this part of town and is an excellent service.”

Lancashire County Council has predicted it will need overall to make an additional £223m savings by April 2020 to tackle a funding gap caused by a combination of reduced funding from central government and rising demand for essential services, especially care services.

It predicts that between 2011 and 2020 it will have had to have made £685m savings in total.

The recommended cuts will be discussed by the council’s Executive Scrutiny Committee on November 24 and considered by the Council’s Cabinet on November 26.

Labour’s Deputy Leader County Coun David Borrow declined to comment on the forthcoming cuts, but confirmed that the next meeting of Cabinet would be deciding which cuts to apply so that, where required, formal statutory consultation could proceed as soon as possible. This would mean any economies could be introduced at the start of the new financial year.

Conservative leader Coun. Geoff Driver said: “When we are given the information we will consider it carefully. However I am concerned that they (Labour) don’t appear to have approached it in the best manner – for example they have restructured the officer organisation of the county council before they determined exactly what it is the county council is going to do. We need tor remember the county council is here to serve the people of Lancashire and especially the vulnerable people of Lancashire.”

But Green party Coun Gina Dowding warned, with 30 per cent more cutbacks to come over the next few years: “Things are very, very bad already. I’m surprised people aren’t already on the streets to be honest. They are going to cut so deep.

“The County Council has actually managed to hide (previous) cuts from the public so far, but it’s absolutely clear that we can’t carry on any longer. People are going to see visible cuts and see that drop in service. I think it’s going to be almost an impossible decision for county councillors to make.”

Her concerns include rural bus series. She said: “We need bus services, not only for rural communities but for young people and the 30 per cent of people who do not have access to a car in the day and also for climate change reasons.”

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