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Burnley and Pendle hit with savage local government funding cuts
BURNLEY and Pendle face Whitehall grant cuts next year of almost 10 per cent, the highest in England.
And they have been warned there is worse to come if they miss Government targets to increase efficiency.
They and Hyndburn will see a reduction in central government support of at least 8.8 per cent – more than £1million – affecting services across the board.
If they fail to meet Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles targets in reducing staff and outsourcing “back office” services, Burnley will see that reduction double to £3.5 million - 17.8 per cent.
In Pendle’s case the cuts will rise to 14 per cent if they fail the government’s efficiency test.
Burnley council leader Julie Cooper described the proposed cuts as “an outrageous betrayal” of the town’s people while Labour opposition leader on Pendle Mohammed Iqbal said the grant reduction was “absolutely ludicrous”.
The two borough’s coalition government MPs Gordon Birtwistle and Andrew Stephenson defended the totals announced last night and said the council’s could meet the efficiency targets to secure the extra grant, adding they had won for them in a series of key meetings with Mr Pickles.
Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn are among only six councils in England facing the maximum budget cut who are required to meet conditions for the extra Efficiency Support Grant worth £1.2 million to Hyndburn, £1.7 million to Burnley and £950,000 to Pendle.
Other East Lancashire councils face smaller cuts with Blackburn with Darwen’s matching the national average of 1.7 per cent and Ribble Valley just 1.3 per cent.
Coun Cooper said: “We’re still looking at the detail of the Government’s announcement earlier today. What is already clear is that Burnley is likely to face the biggest cut in spending power of around 8.8 per cent, and that relies on a further Government assessment.
“This suggests that the cuts we face may actually be higher than the Secretary of State promised and could be as high as 20 per cent. It is another outrageous betrayal of the people of Burnley. We will be doing our upmost to get the Government to reconsider and give us a fairer settlement.”
Coun Iqbal said: “This is absolutely ludicrous - it is a nail in the coffin of Pendle Council.
“It is quite clear that our MP and the Tory council here have no clout with their government. It will be impossible for a borough like Pendle to find these cuts.”
Coun Joe Cooney, Conservative leader of Pendle Council, said: “It has not as bad as it could have been - it seems that the lobbying by myself and our MP Andrew Stephenson has worked. We expected that there would be some reduction in grant and we are aware everyone has to do their bit. “ Burnley will get a spending power of £16.34 million in 2012/2013 with the extra cash - worth £448 per household bring total spending levels per home with the Lancashire County Council’s budget up to £2,202 compared to a national average of £2,240.
Pendle gets a spending limit of £15.68 million, £419 per household topped up by Lancashire county to £2,172. Rossendale’s total limit is £10.63 million - £344 per household with a total of £2,097 including the county council cash.
Neighbouring Blackburn with Darwen’s all purpose authority gets a total spending power of £151.46 million, £2,628 per household.
Burnley Liberal Democrat MP Mr Birtwistle said: “We can make these efficiency savings to get the extra grant we secured in meetings with Mr Pickles and his team. This is the result of the government trying to balance the shambles the Labour government left us where big Labour unitary authorities like Blackburn with Darwen got extra cash at there expense of smaller neighbours like Burnley and Pendle.”
Pendle Tory Mr Stephenson said: “We made the case for the extra efficiency grant to ministers and got it. Pendle is already good at this type of thing and I am confident it will meet the targets which is good for the council and the borough.”
Gill Kilpatrick, Treasurer at Lancashire County Council which got a 2.2 per cent cut, said:”We continue to be in a very challenging position but it is one we have planned for.”