EARBY could lose its council shop as Pendle Council sets its budget for the next year.
The shop on Victoria Road has been earmarked for closure, as well as the Brierfield office, in a bid to save a total of £44,000.
But residents and councillors have pleaded with the council to find another way of making the savings, and save the vital facility from being scrapped.
Resident Maureen Wolf appealed to members of Earby Town Council to do what they could to halt the closure.
She said: “It is not just an office for paying your council tax it is a valuable local service with face to face contact with friendly staff. The help means older people don’t have to get on a bus to go somewhere else where services have been centralised. It promotes tourism and local events. It could be used for even more services, like a base for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. For the sake of £21,000 it is not worth losing this service.”
The recommendation to close the council shops is just one of many proposals with which the council expects to save over £1 million in total.
Other areas targeted across Pendle include reduced opening hours for markets, cuts in funding for modern apprenticeships and public toilets - with proposals to cut down the opening hours of several across West Craven, and a reduction of £2,500 in the grant to the Earby Mines Trust.
Chairman of the town council and Pendle Council Executive member for planning, Chris Tennant, said: “There is a whole list of options on the table.
“At a meeting of Pendle Council, Coun. Morris Horsfield and I made it quite clear where we stand on the issue, that closure of here or Brierfield should be looked at as a last possible resort. We pointed them in the direction of the Christmas decorations, an area in which the town council has saved thousands of pounds through efficiencies. It is quite possible for them to keep decorations as they are but save £50,000 and not have to close either of the offices.”
Coun. Stephen Hartley said: “Everything here shuts down and is moved back to the core, to Nelson or Colne. Even Barnoldswick is a long way if you don’t have a car. After the police shop closing, this is too much. It feels like we are being abandoned. We need all services for the town in one central place so it can be run efficiently.”
Mike Goldthorp, who is on the Board of Trustees for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Home-Start in Burnley and Pendle, said he would investigate the possibility of the two organisations using space in the offices to give it extra value.
Councillors said a purpose-built interview in the council shop for purposes like CAB had never been used, and should be.
Mr Goldthorp said the organisations were always looking for venues where family groups could be helped and Earby was a town they would like to spend more time in.
Coun. Vera Cocker said: “I know there has to be cuts but let’s make sure they are in the right places.”
Coun. Edward Johnson said in the long-term, there should be an attempt to take ownership of the council shop and not just keep it open.
He said: “I am in favour of keeping the council shop in any form possible though I don’t think it will be easy.
“With Communities Minister Eric Pickles pushing the idea of localism I would like to see a scheme in which the town council takes the shop for £1 and it becomes our building. If the council shop is to be sold if it will probably lie empty for two years and be vandalised.
“One area they ought to look at is the salaries of the top staff at Pendle Council. I know they took cuts last year but I think there is a case to look at it again.”
Members of Pendle Council’s Executive, made up of Conservative councillors, were set to discuss the proposals at a special budget meeting last night, but the final decision will be made at a full council meeting on February 23rd.
The Liberal Democrat and Labour parties are also expected to bring their own budget proposals to the table.