A ROSSENDALE councillor has called on the borough to merge with neighbouring authorities to save money.

Liberal Democrat Jim Pilling, who has represented Whitewell ward since May 2008, said ‘really tough decisions’ had to be considered by bosses.

Rossendale Council’s budget meeting takes place next Wednesday, and around £1.4million of savings have to be found in the next year.

Coun Pilling said every council in East Lancashire was ‘feeling the pinch’.

He said: “I think that it is prudent to explore the possibility of merging our organisation with a similar-sized neighbouring borough.

“These councils are also undergoing similar budget reductions.

“I have heard the argument that the people of Rossendale want us to maintain our identity.

“I believe that the people of Rossendale want the best possible service levels for the best possible price.

“To them, it doesn’t matt- er who empties the bins, or cleans the streets, as long as they are getting good value for money.

“I have said, and many agree with me, that the smaller councils, such as Rossendale, will become non-viable in the near fut- ure.

“Reducing our budget from around £12million to around £9million in a few short years, with no financial improvement on the horizon, means that things need to be done radically differently.

“All the fat has been taken off the bone and now we are forced with removing the meat.”

Rossendale council leader Alyson Barnes, who represents the Labour group, said she could see the merits of the idea.

She said: “I do think that given the way we have all been affected financially there does need to be some kind of real structural change around district authorities.

“We might be able to go on for a few more years, but the writing is on the wall in my mind. If the funding cuts continue at this rate we will not be viable.

“I don’t think anything like this is on the Government’s agenda at the minute but, instead of just cutting funding, they should be looking at structural changes.

“But of course any changes that are made have to be balanced ag-ainst loss of control and loss of local identity.”