No plans to scale back events but services across the council are facing a major review

Show goes on: The quality of events like the Illuminations and the Lights Switch-On  will not be affected by plans by the council to reduce its events budget, bosses have pledged
Show goes on: The quality of events like the Illuminations and the Lights Switch-On will not be affected by plans by the council to reduce its events budget, bosses have pledged
Share this article

They are the jewels in Blackpool’s crown.

And town hall bosses today insisted the resort’s 2015 events will not be scaled back – despite battling to make crippling cuts of more than £25m over the next 12 months.

The Gazette revealed yesterday how 300 jobs will go in the next 12 months, with the threat of more to come as savage Government cuts hit the authority.

And Blackpool Council is proposing to slash £340,000 from its marketing and events budgets as part of swingeing cuts to spending for 2015/16.

But key milestones in the events programme including the Illuminations switch-on, the world fireworks championships and the air show will still go ahead.

Assistant chief executive Alan Cavill (pictured below left) said: “We are not deleting any of our major events from the calendar.

“We are looking at how we can bring money into them in a different way perhaps then we have done to date, for example by looking at more sponsorship and it is about tightening our belts with the way we run things.

“We all have to be more careful with our money, but it is the council’s intention to achieve as good an events programme as we had last year.

“By being more careful in how and when we do things, we will achieve that goal.”

The £340,000 includes £200,000 being saved by not filling six posts which have been vacant since the demise of Marketing Blackpool which was brought back into the council last year.

Around £50,000 less is being put into major marketing campaigns compared to last year, and the remainder of the savings will be made by running events more efficiently and trying to attract sponsorship. It is also proposed to reduce the Illuminations budget by £300,000 with more revenue expected to be raised.

The outcome of a bid for £2m for new features for the Illuminations from the Coastal Communities Fund is expected to be known in coming months.

Showzam!, the festival of circus and street theatre which takes place in February, has already been handed over to the Arts Council funded Left Coast group to run.

Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said she would be disappointed if the events budget was hit hard by cuts.

She said: “Of everything VisitBlackpool does, the events have been proven to bring people into Blackpool.

“They have been well organised recently, for example the Air Show being on a Sunday and Monday fills rooms on Sunday nights, and the World Fireworks Championships fills Fridays.

“And when you lose good people within an organisation like VisitBlackpool you lose their expertise and their contacts as well.

“I know cutbacks are real and they have to find savings somewhere but I hope we can have as good an events programme as ever this year.”

More details of cuts emerge as council set to vote on plans

More details of where savings are being made emerged today as the council published documents which will go to its executive for consideration before the 2015/16 budget is finalised by the full council.

A total of £4.7m will be saved from the Adult Services budget including £2m saved due to more integrated working between health and social services.

While £4.1m will be axed from Children’s Services, there will be no impact on frontline social workers.

The biggest chunk of savings will be just over £1m from early intervention schemes, where initiatives are being superseded by the launch of the Better Start initiative.

The latter scheme, being led by the NSPCC, received £45m of Lottery cash last summer and will see a 10-year project undertaken to improve the life chances of babies born in Blackpool’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Residents will see just over £1m slashed from areas including street cleaning, highways maintenance and parks which will result in staffing reductions, as part of a £3.9m cut to the community and environmental services budget.

It means less gardeners employed in the resort’s parks and longer response rates to incidents such as fly-tipping are likely.

Changes to the way the waste services and street lighting private finance initiatives are run will save around £2.3m.

Adult services will see £1.6m worth of savings made in areas including respite care, supported living, care at home and residential services.

Hoyle House Respite Services, which have already been scaled back and moved to Mansfield Road, Layton, from Hoyle House on Grange Park which is closed, will be part of that review.

Around £5.8m will be saved from other services, largely through a reduction in staffing costs. In total £10m will be saved across the board from the loss of 300 jobs.

The cuts are expected to put a greater burden on the voluntary sector as people look for alternative ways to plug the gap.

But Richard Emmess, chief executive of Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde Council for Voluntary Services, warned today that the sector is already struggling due to the loss of key funding last year.

He said: “These latest rounds of cuts in Blackpool are not only of deep concern to the council and its staff but also to my colleagues in the voluntary, community and faith sector.

“The council announced last year that it had no alternative but to cease the giving of grants to the voluntary sector.

“This meant that the only means of funding they could offer us was through commissions when they go out to the market for service providers to support them.

“Although we understood the difficult financial position the council is in it was, nevertheless, a devastating blow.

“Many of us struggle every year to attract funding from various sources just to keep our heads above water.

“Delivering services needed by the most vulnerable in Blackpool will be made all the more difficult in light of the latest announcement of funding reductions.”

The council is also expecting to have to make another £20m of cuts in 2016/17 with at least another 100 posts at risk.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn described the cuts as “the toughest yet” and has warned “there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel.”

However, there will be no increase in the council’s element of the council tax.

Coun Blackburn said: “I couldn’t look the people of Blackpool in the eye if I asked them to pay more for less services.”

At a under review

Savings will be sought in street cleaning, highways maintenance, parks and catering which will result in job losses.

Additional income will be sought from activities at Moor Park leisure centre and from the Stanley Park high ropes course.

There will be a review of the arts and heritage spend, which could include grants paid to the Grand Theatre.

Options for the future of the Grundy Art Gallery (pictured) will be explored which could include handing it over to a charitable trust in the future which would have more access to grants.

Parts of the Illuminations could be effectively privatised by out-sourcing some of the work. There will also be more expectation to raise revenue. The council is awaiting the outcome of a bid for £2m from the Coastal Communities Fund towards new features for the Illuminations.

Reduced events budget for VisitBlackpool. Showzam! has already been transferred to Left Coast, an Arts Council funded organisation, but council has pledged events will not be scaled back.

The council says it will look at “delivering services differently” in areas including day service, respite services, supported living, care at home and residential services.

Savings will also be made by a review of integrated health and social care services.

Area forum grants will be axed – currently each of the seven area forums receives £7,500 each to hand out to community projects.