Cash cuts clobber council, Pendle peer tells Lords

Tony Greaves
Tony Greaves
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COUNCILS such as Pendle and Burnley are part of the “Sorry Seven” – seven ordinary small district councils that are being “clobbered even harder than everybody else” by cuts in government funding, claimed Pendle-based Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Tony Greaves in a House of Lords debate last week.

Lord Greaves said they are Hastings, Great Yarmouth, Barrow-in-Furness, Bolsover, Hyndburn, Burnley and Pendle.

“They are two seaside towns, with all the problems of declining seaside towns over the decades, and five former industrial areas in the north of England,” he said. “The Government say that the top cuts for any council are 8.5%, but if you do the sums for councils such as Hastings and Pendle in cash, the cut in cash grant this year is 17%. It will be even worse in 2014-16.”

He drew on his position as a councillor in Pendle to report that the total “core funding” for Pendle would be cut from over £13 million in 2009 to under £7 million in 2014, just five years later.

He said Pendle Council had done almost everything that the Government had asked them to do to save money. “We have an arm’s-length leisure trust and we have stock transferred our council housing at the behest of the previous Labour Government because they were bribing us with vast amounts of money to do that.

“We have outsourced many back-room services and a front-counter service and got the private

sector partner to build new offices in the middle of Nelson. We have a highly successful joint venture with a local development company, whereby the company raises two-thirds of the finance.

“We have had a radical stripping-out of top officers. We are supposed to be in the top 10 most efficient councils in the country. I do not know how people work that out, but that is what is said, and we have apparently had more awards than any other council this year.

“However, it makes no difference. We have to subject ourselves to this extraordinary procedure,

whereby ministers will assess whether we have qualified for this new efficiency grant. Of course, we have to assume that we will get it in order to make any sort of sensible budget.

“The whole system that is set up for this small group of councils is absolutely crazy; nobody could dream it up.”

Lord Greaves says he will continue to press government ministers for more help for East Lancashire and these councils in particular, but says it is time that local MPs “threw their weight around” more effectively.