FOUR key tests – which should safeguard £1.7million for Burnley Council’s spending plans – are close to being met.

That is the view of the town’s MP, Gordon Birtwistle, as council officers and politicians in the borough attempt to persuade Communities Secretary Eric Pickles that they are a streamlined and forward-thinking authority.

The Liberal Democrat MP has come under fire from the Labour-run council after it was confirmed before Christmas that Burnley would face Whitehall grant reductions of nearly 10 per cent.

And they were among a raft of northern authorities, including Pendle and Hyndburn, which were told they must satisfy Mr Pickles’s department over their future direction in order to receive a new ‘efficency support grant’, or face an effective doubling of their spending cuts.

But Mr Birtwistle, himself a former leader of the borough council, is confident that the town hall is on the right track.

And while he accepts that the council has a difficult task ahead, the £1.7million efficency support grant was achievable.

He told a full council meeting: “I have to say that the council is already doing the majority of things which have been asked of it, and I am confident that we will secure this grant. I promise that I will go to the ministers concerned in January and report back to this council.”

Mr Birtwistle also said he would assist council leader Coun Julie Cooper and chief executive Steve Rumbelow in ‘any way he could’ to cement the grant.

Later, the MP confirmed that two of the four tests, such as working closely with other agencies and implementing shared services with other authorities, were already working in practice in Burnley.