The plight of Lancashire’s cash-strapped County Council could mean outside agencies or residents taking over or helping to run certain services.
The council, which this week revealed proposals for a further £65m cuts, has already suggested community groups and organisations may wish to look at running threatened local bus services.
Now the leader of the Liberal Democrat group Coun Bill Winlow has suggested wildlife organisations or the National Trust could help if, as proposed, the council’s entire Countryside Service is axed – a move which would affect facilities such as Beacon Fell, near Preston and Wycoller Country Park.
Meanwhile Labour council leader Coun Jennifer Mein, said there could be a role forvoluntary organisations to help keep open five closure threatened museums - including the Museum of Lancashire in Preston.
She said: “We’re consulting, if people can come forward we’re very happy to talk to them and assist them.”
But the council has also warned that if its remaining museums, including Lancaster Castle, don’t pay their way, they could be handed back to their owners, with the exception of Gawthorpe Hall which is leased from the National Trust.
County Coun Geoff Driver, leader of the Conservative group on the Council, accused the Labour group of cutting the wrong services and taking “panic measures”.
He said: “I’m very, very disappointed that they seem to making cuts which have a significant impact on many vulnerable people in Lancashire. With a little more foresight they could could have avoided many of these cuts.”
Particular concerns were library cuts and scrapping free transport to day care centres for the elderly and vulnerable. But he welcomed news that the council was “reinstating” its lollipop patrol budget, opting for “prudential borrowing” and good repayment terms. And he had a blunt message for the ruling Labour group: “We won’t be supporting a lot of them (the cuts).”
Labour will be looking to the Liberal Democrat acouncillors for support when its cabinet meets on November 26 to debate savage cuts ranging from closing 40 libraries to chopping £2.8m from the highways budget.
Coun Winlow said his group was considering the cuts package and a priority would be to protect social care
He said: “These cuts are far deeper and far worse than they should ever have been. They are being done for purely dogmatic purposes by the Conservative party and Government. Not a single one of us wishes these cuts to go ahead in the way they are because it’s going to detract seriously from the service we’re going to be able to offer the people of Lancashire. We don’t want people not being able to get to school, work, college or hospital because there are no bus services around. I’m so incensed about this. I’m just worried we are taking away the basis on which an awful lot of modern society is built.”
He also said it was time to look again at the health and care budget: “We need a new settlement around social care and working with clinical commissioning groups for health so health can be looked at as a single entity.”
Public service union Unison’s branch secretary Elaine Cotterell reported staff had wept as news of hundreds more full time job losses were announced. She predicted thousands of staff would go as many are part timers, She said: “It’s going to have a big effect on the economy and where are people going to find similar work?”