Rossendale councillor calls for town hall merger to save cash

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.”

Comments (4)

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8:17pm Wed 20 Feb 13

clickhere says...

Graham Jones was quoted last week suggesting a similar arrangement. Could be the politicos are having an outbreak of common sense.
Graham Jones was quoted last week suggesting a similar arrangement. Could be the politicos are having an outbreak of common sense. clickhere

9:53pm Wed 20 Feb 13

Doug Spencer says...

Not wishing to point out the obvious, this happened once before in 1974 when the towns of Haslingden, Rawtenstall, Bacup and Whitworth (along with the various villages) were amalgamated to form the Borough of Rossendale. Let's be honest, things did not improve. In fact EVERY town will say they suffered as a result of the merger.
To try and resurect the idea of Pennine Lancashire or whatever, would just mean the residents of Rossendale losing out even more.
Maybe Jim is thinking that the LibDems are finished now so he can voice daft ideas, without fear.
Not wishing to point out the obvious, this happened once before in 1974 when the towns of Haslingden, Rawtenstall, Bacup and Whitworth (along with the various villages) were amalgamated to form the Borough of Rossendale. Let's be honest, things did not improve. In fact EVERY town will say they suffered as a result of the merger. To try and resurect the idea of Pennine Lancashire or whatever, would just mean the residents of Rossendale losing out even more. Maybe Jim is thinking that the LibDems are finished now so he can voice daft ideas, without fear. Doug Spencer

8:06am Thu 21 Feb 13

Kevin, Colne says...

The 1974 structure lasted all of 12 years and was de-stabilised with the abolition of the Metropolitan County Councils in 1986.

The 1974 re-organisation in the Shires accorded dominance to the County Councils on account of them having responsibility for education and social services. The Districts were basically glorified urban district councils.

During the last 40 years local government has continued on a pathway of decline.

At District Council level the key service of housing has been transferred to housing associations and public transport is either now in private ownership or arms-length companies. At County level the councils have lost responsibility for local-authority provided higher education and further education, and schools are being removed by stealth. County councils were weakened further when the largest towns were re-accorded unitary status.

It’s a grim picture but part of de-democratisation that has been the corner-stone of public policy for many years.

The question now, at least in the Shires, is: what shall we do with the rest?

The case for re-structuring along unitary lines is one option. Establishing a unitary authority would require government approval by way of either primary legislation or quite possibly ministerial order but the districts could establish joint services. There is a precedent in Rossendale and other parts of East Lancashire for such moves. For example, Rossendale Transport was formed in 1968 by Rawtenstall and Haslingden Corporations acting in Joint Committee until 1974 when Rossendale Borough Council came into existence.

Do local authorities now possess a general power of authority for operating services jointly, or would they have to obtain a private act of parliament? Could someone who works in the Town Clerk’s Department help me here, and answer this question?

Having said all of this, a re-structuring would not solve the fundamental dilemma of local government: its subservient role to the centre and begging for crumbs from the master’s table.
The 1974 structure lasted all of 12 years and was de-stabilised with the abolition of the Metropolitan County Councils in 1986. The 1974 re-organisation in the Shires accorded dominance to the County Councils on account of them having responsibility for education and social services. The Districts were basically glorified urban district councils. During the last 40 years local government has continued on a pathway of decline. At District Council level the key service of housing has been transferred to housing associations and public transport is either now in private ownership or arms-length companies. At County level the councils have lost responsibility for local-authority provided higher education and further education, and schools are being removed by stealth. County councils were weakened further when the largest towns were re-accorded unitary status. It’s a grim picture but part of de-democratisation that has been the corner-stone of public policy for many years. The question now, at least in the Shires, is: what shall we do with the rest? The case for re-structuring along unitary lines is one option. Establishing a unitary authority would require government approval by way of either primary legislation or quite possibly ministerial order but the districts could establish joint services. There is a precedent in Rossendale and other parts of East Lancashire for such moves. For example, Rossendale Transport was formed in 1968 by Rawtenstall and Haslingden Corporations acting in Joint Committee until 1974 when Rossendale Borough Council came into existence. Do local authorities now possess a general power of authority for operating services jointly, or would they have to obtain a private act of parliament? Could someone who works in the Town Clerk’s Department help me here, and answer this question? Having said all of this, a re-structuring would not solve the fundamental dilemma of local government: its subservient role to the centre and begging for crumbs from the master’s table. Kevin, Colne

11:44am Thu 21 Feb 13

BarryBannan says...

Finally a politician who talks a bit of sense.
Finally a politician who talks a bit of sense. BarryBannan

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