BLACKBURN with Darwen’s political leaders clashed last night over the service cuts proposed by the ruling Labour group after a £30million reduction in Whitehall grant.

Council leader Labour’s Kate Hollern blamed the coalition government for 500 job losses, the closure of children centres, scrapping school uniform grants and reducing library and swimming pool hours.

Tory leader Mike Lee accused her of failing to prepare properly for long-anticipated cuts in Westminster cash and axing the wrong services.

Liberal Democrat chief David Foster mocked Labour’s ruling executive board for “lack of imagination”.

Coun Hollern said: “This government is making councils the fall guy for its economic incompetence.

“It is forcing the council to cut valued services such as social care, cleansing libraries.

“Faced with a £30m cut, we had no option but to inform staff that yet again there would be job losses.

“To deliver such a message was heart-breaking.

“Ministers are turning strivers into people they call skivers; they are putting a further burden on vulnerable people who rely on services, whilst denying honest hardworking people the opportunity to work.

“These cuts are unfair; they hit the areas of most need.”

Coun Lee told her: “We start from a worse position due to the fact you failed to deal fully with the previous settlement and used reserves to fund continuing revenue spend. This must not happen again.

“We need to stop the funding for union representatives. We have suggested savings – close one of the swimming pools rather than cutting back hours, speed up the handover of community centres to the community, reduce the neighbourhood teams and remove private sector housing support. We need to ensure the £130million we have to spend is targeted at the needs of residents”

Coun Foster said: “The Labour group tell us they have been preparing for the cuts for a long time. It is disappointing to see a lack of imagination.

“Why have we not pushed the sharing of bureaucracy with some of our neighbouring authorities? Why have we not looked at reshaping our social services and delivering them through a social enterprise instead of cutting old people’s homes?”