Blackpool Council leader fuming at funding snub

Coun Simon Blackburn
Coun Simon Blackburn
  • £300m Government cash-pot to help struggling boroughs...
  • Leafy Tory heartland Surrey gets £24M
  • Blackpool...not a single penny
  • Answers please PM!

Blackpool has received nothing from a £300m government pot to help cash-strapped councils – while southern shires will receive millions.

The “transitional funding” was announced by Westminster to soften the impact of council cuts, but leaders have blasted the Government for neglecting Lancashire.

There is an ongoing debate generally about how we reflect and fund areas such as Blackpool with high levels of social need

The £150m-a-year transitional fund has been created to help councils cope with the phasing out of the government’s revenue support grant, and will give £9m to Oxfordshire, £18.7m to Hampshire, and £24.1m to Surrey. More than 80 per cent is going to Conservative authorities.

Blackpool will receive nothing and County Hall chiefs will today debate savings worth £65m. But Lancashire County Council will receive a total of just £2.3m from the grant – which they say is likely to be offset by cuts to other funding. Wyre will receive just £20,000. Fylde will receive £200,000.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “I’m angry beyond belief, but no longer surprised, as this is the sort of behaviour we’ve come to expect over the years.

“Conservative councils in the richer parts of the country have just started having their funding cut in a meaningful way – whereas it has been happening to Blackpool for five years already.”

Blackpool Council is having to make savings of £25m in its 2016/17 budget with a total of 300 jobs being lost.

Among the services to be hit are libraries which are having their opening hours scaled back to save £85,000.

It is proposed to take £700,000 out of the community and environmental services budget, which includes street cleansing, while adult services is set to lose £750,000.

A total of £275,000 is to be axed from children’s services.

The latest cuts mean the council has had to make total savings of £93m since 2010.

Coun Blackburn added: “Because this has come as a shock to them, Conservative MPs ganged up on the Chancellor, and threatened to vote against the Local Government settlement unless he gave in, and found some extra money to keep these Conservative Councils quiet.

“Sadly, our own Conservative MP clearly wasn’t that bothered, as he’s not been able to get us an extra penny.

“So we are back to the scandalous situation of the Government forcing us to cut £25 million this year, while Conservative councils in the South East get let off the hook.”

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said the transitional funding was mainly being targeted at rural areas where the cost of running some services was higher.

But he said he had fought to protect Blackpool’s funding.

He said: “I’m sorry Coun Blackburn feels the need to attack me.

“Even though he has refused to meet me, I have fought Blackpool’s corner hard and made sure the extra money we have found for Lancashire, in the hope it might just save the tram service, isn’t coming out of Blackpool Council funding.

“I have made sure we have got the best deal for both Blackpool and Lancashire.”

He said Blackpool would not get any additional government cash this year, but the debate on funding was ongoing.

Mr Maynard added: “There is an ongoing debate generally about how we reflect and fund areas such as Blackpool with high levels of social need.

“I will always argue that Blackpool’s special needs are taken into account and part of the opportunity for Blackpool will lie in particular in understanding how a combined authority will deliver more money to the area.”

County Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of the County Council, said: “We have been lobbying central government very hard to try to secure more money for Lancashire. The finalised figures reveal that while some councils have been given more money, particularly county councils in the south, Lancashire’s position is no better off.

“This leaves the county council in a very difficult financial position, unprecedented in its severity, and makes it very difficult to maintain the services that people rely on. Even before this final announcement, we knew that the council will not have sufficient financial resources to meet its statutory obligations by April 2018, based on current spending levels and demand for services.”

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “This Government is providing a long-term funding settlement for the first time allowing local authorities to plan with certainty. Councils will have almost £200bn to spend on local services over the lifetime of this parliament.More than half the councils in Lancashire receive transitional funding totalling nearly £3m, and will have over £4bn core spending power between now and 2019/20.”