A political row has broken out in Pendle over the future funding of the local council.
Pendle Borough Council voted to increase Council Tax at its latest meeting in light of huge government funding cuts, an excuse which didn’t sit well with Pendle Tories.
Council leader, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, said the increase of 2% or £5 per year on a Band D property, was a response to savage cuts to the money Pendle received from the Conservative Government.
He said: “By 2020, we will have suffered a 68% or over £8m. cut in real cash terms. It is simply unsustainable for the council to continue to provide the level of service expected by residents in the face of such government cuts.
“The government in the last few weeks announced a further cut in the council’s New Homes Bonus settlement which will result in a further £3m. loss to us by 2020.
“Simply put, the Conservatives are purely for political purposes wanting to end the way councils operate across the North of England.”
The Labour leader also accused the Pendle Tories of wanting to privatise all of the council’s services and failing to lobby Pendle’s Conservative Andrew Stephenson over the huge cuts the area has been hit with by the government.
But Pendle Tory leader Coun. Joe Cooney, said the ruling Labour group needed to “wake up and smell the roses”.
Coun. Cooney said: “Local Government is changing. How we are funded is changing. No longer can we rely on how things used to be.
“Harking back to the past is not the way ahead. No longer can we rely on Central Government (of whatever hue) to be the main source of our funding. Councils and councillors need to take much more responsibility for ensuring the council has funding to meet its needs.
“Work needs to begin immediately on drafting tender documents for services such as waste collection, grounds maintenance, pest control and leisure provision.
“These are huge changes and will require months’ of work, if any savings are to be secured in the next financial year. This is not reason to delay. We simply cannot wait until next year to start the work.”
The Tories were defeated in an amendment to cut funding to PCSOs and a proposal to cut councillors’ allowances.
They also proposed a two year budget, which would have seen services like waste, grounds maintenance, pest control and leisure services protected in future years through outsourcing arrangements, as well as relocating some of the council road sweepers to Barnoldswick to create a more localised service.
The only Conservative suggestion which was accepted, was to reintroduce the funding for the last bus of the evening from Barnoldswick.
But Coun. Iqbal described the Tory proposals as “reckless” and a “gimmick”.
He said: “The alternative budget proposed by the Conservatives was a reckless one with proposals to privatise many of the services we provide.
“They do not have any ideas about the mammoth task ahead of Pendle Council and simply bury their head in the sand. They have previously publicly refused to accept the £1.2m. agreed by the Labour led council and indeed voted against these ‘easy savings’.
“However, at the budget meeting they did a complete U-turn and in a cowardly fashion accepted the previous savings with no apology to the people of Pendle for their previous political antics.
“Their gimmicks were simply to divert attention away from their failure to work with me and the Liberal Democrats on the council to lobby our MP who has failed Pendle, unlike some of his colleagues in other parts of the county.”
The current make up of Pendle Borough Council is 23 Conservatives, 15 Labour, nine Lib Dems, one Independent and one BNP. Labour and the Lib Dems currently run the council in a power sharing coalition.