Pendle Council chief paint bleak picture of future

Nelson Town Hall.'Photo Ben Parsons
Nelson Town Hall.'Photo Ben Parsons

Everything from the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival to bin collections will be delivered differently in the future.

That is the bleak picture painted by Pendle Council chiefs who are facing difficult decisions in the months and years ahead.

Coun. Tony Greaves

Coun. Tony Greaves

Such is the level of savings which have to be made, the very make-up of Pendle Council and the way it delivers services is also likely to mean the council will be unrecognisable in the near future.

The unprecedented situation has forced council bosses to look at every service it provides including leisure and sport, bin collections and community policing.

Their findings are due to be put to a meeting of the ruling Executive tonight.

Estimated savings of £4.7m. need to be made over the next three years.

We’re now very close to being forced to stop doing some quite important things

Coun. Tony Greaves

In 2016/17, the council needs to save around £1.1m. with a further £1.9m. in 2017/18 and £1.7m. in 2018/19.

Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, leader of Pendle Council, said: “Our priority is to protect investment in the services which matter most to our residents and businesses.

“At our Executive meeting, we’ll have an initial look at the options being put forward by Management Team.I stress they are just Management Team’s proposals at this stage and no decisions have been taken.

“The budget will be set by councillors so we’re not obliged to accept any of the proposals.”

Coun. Tony Greaves, deputy leader of Pendle Council, oversees the council’s finances.

The Lib Dem peer criticised the Government’s “ideological attack” on local councils.

He said: “The government cuts are an existential threat to everything we do. Most people accepted some form of austerity was necessary, but local councils are now carrying far more of their share of the burden.

“The drastic cuts to our funding now are for ideological reasons. The belief of Chancellor George Osborne is to have a smaller state providing fewer services, services which I believe are the basis of a civilised society. I find it appalling.

“We’re looking at different ways to cut our spending and raise our income, but we’re now very close to being forced to stop doing some quite important things.”

The council has yet to receive details of its funding settlement for next year.

Pendle Council currently spends around £23m. each year on a range of services.

Strategic director Dean Langton said: “For the last seven years we haven’t increased council tax.

“Since 2010 our government funding has reduced from £13.2m. to £7.2m., which equates to 45% less. As a result we have had to reduce spending by more than £6m.

“We’ve so far found most of these savings without making a significant impact on visible frontline services. For example, since 2010 we’ve reduced our staff from 400 to 266. The majority of those jobs were staff who worked behind the scenes and in managerial jobs.

“We’ve also worked hard to become more efficient and have found ways of doing things differently.

“For example, we’re transferring some of our facilities and services such as community centres, public conveniences and play areas to local town and parish councils who can often provide them more cheaply.

“We expect our government funding will continue to reduce each year until 2019. As a result we estimate we’ll need to reduce our spending by around £4.7m. over the next three years.”

To achieve that, the council plans to review its bin collections, financial support for community policing and its leisure and sport facilities.

Mr Langton added: “We stress that no decisions have yet been taken but they show the seriousness of the financial difficulties facing the council and the potential impact on local people.”