NEW county council cuts will mean library and museum closures, the end of dozens of rural and evening bus services, darker streets and less road maintenance across East Lancashire.

Almost 900 posts will go in the dramatic package of spending reductions with some staff facing compulsory redundancy.

The cutbacks were announced by Lancashire County Council leader Jenny Mein as she produced a draft budget aimed at saving a further £65 million over two years from the authority’s £762 million annual spending.

She admitted some service reductions would hit the East of the county hardest and blamed the “heartbreaking” decisions on government cuts in Whitehall grants.

Key cutbacks include: n Scrapping subsidies for rural, evening and loss-making bus services across 120 routes.

  • Closing 40 of the county council’s 74 libraries.
  • Shutting five museums including Burnley’s Queen Street Mill and Helmshore Textile Museum.
  • Ending subsidised transport for pupils to the religious school of their parents choice.
  • Cutting the highways budget by £2.8 million which could see some roads left ungritted in winter.
  • Dimming more street lights for longer.
  • Shedding another 867 jobs from the county’s 12,000 staff on top of the 1,100 who have taken voluntary redundancy since January 2014.
  • The closure of the Whitehough Outdoor Education Centre, Barley.

Also Cllr Mein did not rule out another 1.99 per cent increase in council tax in April (41.5 pence a week for the average ‘Band D’ house) for the county’s 12 districts which include Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Ribble Valley, Rossendale and Chorley. The loss of the full-time posts, which the UNISON union warned could affect 2,000 jobs because of part-time working, would be in addition to the 1,100 staff who have already left the authority taking voluntary redundancy since January 2014.

The latest £65 million cuts come on top of previously announced savings of £148 million covering 2015-16 to 2017-18 but leave the county £197 million short of a savings target of £262 million by April 2020.

Cllr Mein said: “These are heartbreaking decisions which have caused me a lot of sleepless nights.

“I did not come into politics to cut services and make hard-working staff redundant.

“We face the combination of relentless central government cuts and rising demand for our services.”

County council UNISON branch secretary Elaine Cotterell said: “The proposed cuts will undoubtedly impact on services that are desperately needed.

“More than 200 jobs are to go in children’s centres and youth services, reducing early help for vulnerable families.

“It is very sad that the short break service is being cut.

“It will mean that parents of disabled children will be denied access to respite care.

“Cuts to council transport services will mean more isolation for our older people. The scale of the job cuts will damage the local economy.”

Bus services face axe as cuts to go ahead

BUS services, cheap transport for schoolchildren and the disabled, street lighting and road maintenance are all facing major cutbacks in the county council savings package.
The main ray of light is the retention of school crossing patrols, which will now be paid for from the public health budget.
County bosses have decided to press ahead with the scrapping of all subsidies for loss-making bus routes, despite being forced to retreat on the issue 12 months ago.
The 59 contracts covering 120 routes include rural routes, off-peak and evening services and rarely used sections of otherwise profitable routes.
Dozens of services in East Lancashire could go.
Free subsidised accessible transport for the elderly and disabled to day centres will be axed unless local groups supported by a new £2 million fund can find community transport alternatives.
The county is also ending subsidised bus passes for families who want to send their children to faith schools of their choice further away than their nearest non-denominational one
Although no street lights will go out, the detail of the plan reveals that the county’s “stepped dimming policy will be enhanced”, meaning more will be dimmed or darkened for longer as it continues to replace old fashioned lamps with new energy and cost-saving LED ones.
The saving of £2.8 million from the highways maintenance budget could see the reduction of gritting on non-priority routes.
Pendle Tory MP Andrew Stephenson said the proposed cuts to subsidies for rural bus routes and passes to faith school pupils were “appalling decisions” he would fight.

County council Tory leader Geoff Driver further added: “The Labour leadership has known about the cuts in government grants and has buried its head in the sand.”