CHANCELLOR George Osborne’s Autumn Statement yesterday brought some festive cheer to East Lancashire drivers as he announced the scrapping of a planned 3p rise in fuel duty.
But councils across the region will once again be feeling the pinch after the announcement of a two per cent cut to local government budgets.
There will also be an extra £2.70 a week for people earning a basic state pension, although campaigners say the 2.5 per cent increase is not enough.
Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Coun Kate Hollern said the figures were ‘misleading’.
She said: “After already facing 25 per cent cuts this year and 20 per cent cuts next year, by 2014 we will have had a 47 per cent cut to council budgets.
“They are still giving a huge amount of money to banks while the number of elderly people and unemployed people goes up.
“It is worrying times for the North West. The statement makes very depressing reading.”
Burnley Council leader Julie Cooper said: “Two per cent does sound quite small but over two years the cuts have taken 44 per cent of our budget.
“I am not going to sleep any easier, the situation is still pretty grave.
“But we will battle on. We are determined to fight for Burnley and we will continute to look for new and better ways of doing things.”
The rise in state pensions did not go far enough, according to campaigners.
Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “This is just £2.70 a week extra and only £1.60 a week more for millions of older women who do not get a full pension.
“Even with this increase, one in five older people continue to live in poverty, three million pensioner households are in fuel poverty and millions more are struggling just to make ends meet.”
But the end to fears of a further rise in fuel prices was welcomed.
Road Haulage Association chief executive Geoff Dunning said: “The announcement that he intends to cancel the fuel duty rise that was planned for January comes as a welcome surprise.
“However, the fact remains that for many hauliers, this latest move will only be seen as a delaying tactic.”
Plans to increase the Annual Investment Allowance in plants and machinery for businesses were welcomed by East Lancashire MPs.
During his speech, Mr Osborne referred to Burnley and Pendle, after being lobbied by MPs Gordon Birtwistle and Andrew Stephenson.
The Chancellor said: “I want to thank my honourable friends for Burnley and Pendle for their thoughts in this area. Starting on January 1 and for the next two years, I am therefore going to increase by tenfold the Annual Investment Allowance in plant and machinery.
“Instead of £25,000 worth of investment being eligible for 100 per cent relief, £250,000 worth of investment will now qualify.”
Responding, Mr Stephenson, MP for Pendle, said: “I am delighted that the Chancellor has listened to manufacturers across Burnley and Pendle and the representation I made to him.”