Historic and difficult decisions including the ending of funding for the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival – as well as the first increase in Council Tax for a decade – have been made by Pendle Council.
In a stormy budget meeting as the council faces up to the reality of massive Government cutbacks, councillors also voted to close Marsden Park Golf Course and increase fees to residents across the whole of Pendle Leisure Trust facilities.
But already the fight is on to save both the Blues Festival and the golf course.
A petition to stop the golf course closure had attracted more than 500 signatures by the middle of the week.
And, since the budget meeting, a sum of £60,000 has made made available for this year’s Blues Festival to run. Both topics will be the subject of discussion when the Pendle Leisure Triust board meets on Monday. The Council’s Labour and Liberal Democrat shared Executive worked together to create the agreed budget for 2016/17.
Leader of Pendle Council, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, said the difficult decisions had been made to protect frontline services, and accused Pendle Conservatives of being “in denial” about Government cuts.
We have tried to protect frontline servicesCouncil leader
The leader of Pendle Conservatives, Coun. Joe Cooney, had accused Labour and Lib Dems of charging more for delivering less.
Coun. Iqbal said: “Difficult decisions have had to be made, but these have been done in the light of unprecedented Government cuts.
“The Conservatives in Pendle didn’t put any credible options forward, they are clearly in denial.
“We have tried to protect frontline services. The Council Tax increase of 1.99% is equivalent to 6p a week on a Band A property.
“The increase is in line with what the Government envisaged for local councils and has been set in response to their grant allocation to us.”
All groups on the council had supported retaining street cleaning, leisure centres, PCSOs, not introducing charges for bulky household waste collections or replacement wheelie bins, maintaining the budgets for area committees, and continuing to support community safety initiatives.
Coun. Iqbal added: “Sadly, the council clearly cannot sustain the level of funding required for the Blues Festival. It will go ahead this year and we hope interested parties will ensure its survival in the future.”
Coun. Tony Greaves, deputy leader of Pendle Council, added: “It’s a sensible, well planned budget designed to protect services which matter to local people such as the free collection of bulky household waste.
“We’ve also kept the budget intact for our huge public footpath network, to cover repairs to stiles and footpaths.
“That’s because access to our countryside is important to local people and visitors.
“We’re grateful to our staff who, in difficult circumstances, are helping to make Pendle Council more cost-efficient.
“And we acknowledge the support of the town and parish councils who are increasingly sharing the burden of keeping our local services going.”
The Conservatives criticised the budget, which also includes an increase in cemetery fees for burials for non-Pendle residents.
Councillors also voted to axe the bus subsidy for the Service 22 and 28 Barnoldsick-Burnley, as well as deciding to close Earby Council shop.
Coun. Cooney said: “The rise in Council Tax is a direct hit for the hard-working people of Pendle.
“It is just wrong that while this council is doing less than it ever has, to be charging more than it ever has for those services.”
The meeting took longer than expected, due to adjournments and six amendments proposed by the Conservatives.
Coun. Cooney added: “We adjourned the meeting so that we could put forward credible proposals which meant that these things didn’t need to be done. These were costed proposals, which we proposed would be paid for through greater savings at Liberata and outsourcing of the Pest Control department after discussions with the Strategic Director.
“I can’t understand why they wouldn’t listen. It looked like they were just grandstanding.”