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 Borough Council as it faces up to the reality of massive Government cutbacks.
In a stormy budget meeting, councillors also voted to close Marsden Park Golf Course, and voted to increase fees to residents across the whole of Pendle Leisure Trust facilities.
The Conservatives in Pendle didn’t put any credible options forward, they are clearly in denial.Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, Pendle Council leader
They also voted to increase cemetery fees for burials.
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.
He 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 leader of Pendle Conservatives, Coun. Joe Cooney, had accused Labour and Lib Dems of charging more for delivering less.
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 said that the council was now in talks with outside bodies to preserve the future of the blues festival and of Marsden Golf Course.
He 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.”
The Conservatives criticised the budget, which also includes an increase 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 hardworking 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.”
Coun. Paul White, deputy leader of Pendle Conservatives, added: “This was an administration totally unprepared to listen to valid and costed arguments. It was a budget which cuts off the isolated, fails to tackle dog fouling, and taxes the dead. Shame on the new leaders of Pendle Borough Council.”