MORE than 1,000 staff at Blackburn with Darwen Council are being warned their jobs are at risk as bosses unveil plans to cut almost a quarter from the town hall’s budget.

For the first time, details have been released of where the £22million savings will be made after ministers made ‘savage’ cuts to the council’s grant.

Unions said they were ‘very concerned’ as councillors prepared to meet to agree a drastic reduction programme.

Under the proposals, as many as 600 jobs could be lost after a consultation starting next month, with street cleaning, care for elderly people, libraries and leisure centres all facing massive cutbacks.

The highways budget is being cut by 25per cent, meaning less cash will be available to fill potholes and resurface roads.

And there will be no more festivals - with the exception of Darwen Live - as the council moves towards only the services it is legally obliged to provide.

East Lancashire is among the worst-hit areas by Government-imposed cuts, and Kate Hollern, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Labour leader, said wealthier parts of the country, including Oxfordshire and Dorset, had fared much better.

Coun Hollern said it was ‘heartbreaking’ to have to make such drastic cuts to services, but it was due to their 'savage' funding cuts.

She added: "The deal we have got is far worse once you count the loss of grants for poorer areas.

"We are one of the worst hit areas in the country. It’s heartbreaking for our towns but we have no option but to balance the budget from the funding we have received.”

Opposition councillors said they accepted the changes had to be made, but said Labour should have acted sooner.

And the Conservative leader of neighbouring Hyndburn Council, which is also facing budget cuts, accused town halls of ‘making a meal of it’.

Peter Britcliffe said jobs would be lost in his council but blamed the last Labour Government for the financial problems.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has called an extraordinary meeting in an attempt to push through its savings programme.

This will minimise the cost of the job losses, which will take up to nine months because of statutory notice and consultation periods.

If agreed by the 64 councillors next Thursday night, staff will be formally told they are ‘at risk’.

This is on top of the 250 jobs that have already been shed at the council through natural wastage and early retirements.

Ros Shepherd, of the Unite Union, blamed the reduction in government grants for the shortfall.

She added: “The cuts are the worst I have ever known in my career.

"I am very concerned about staff.”

Mike Lee, the Tory group leader who was until recently in charge of the council, admitted many of the cuts would also have been made on his watch.

But he added: “I think they have made a mistake by delaying so long. This is in line with what we expected in the autumn.

“It’s going to reduce services, with more focus on what’s necessary rather than what’s desirable.”

Coun Lee said not enough detail had been proposed ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

Lib Dem leader David Foster said Labour should have stuck to the previous regime’s plans to close Shadsworth Leisure Centre and cut funding for community centres rather than ‘delay’ the cost-saving programme.

Chief executive Graham Burgess said the council was already ‘leading the way’ in saving cash having merged its managers with the local health trust and cut the amount of directors it employs.

Social services chief Stephen Sloss and legal services director Linda Comstive have become the latest to leave following the council’s management restructure.

Where the cuts will fall:

Adult Social Care

£6.6million is to be cut from the £80million budget of the department, which looks after elderly and vulnerable adults.

The largest chunk of savings is set to come from renegotiating contracts with suppliers, including day care and social worker providers, and private care homes.

Bosses say this will not affect front-line staff, but it is likely to have an impact on people using the service because providers will be forced to review their activities, or shed staff, to make savings.

Children’s Services

Although this wave of cuts does not directly affect schools, the borough’s 13 children’s centres are facing a ‘fundamental’ review.

Less money is available for Sure Start centres, despite Government assurances.

Services for vulnerable children will also be affected, with bosses hoping to bring the care of youngsters back within the borough’s boundaries rather than pay for costly placements elsewhere.


The budget for street-cleaning is to be slashed by 20 per cent, saving £200,000.

Parks maintenance and grass-cutting are also being reduced, while fees at the borough’s cemeteries will be increased.

The trading standards team will be scaled back, and will focus more on responsive work rather than proactively warning residents about possible scams.

Leisure and culture

With the exception of Darwen Live, the borough’s festivals have been scrapped.

Celebrate Blackburn, touted as the town-centre replacement for the popular Arts in the Park, is unlikely to be held again.

A review is underway into the operation at King George’s Hall, where the programme is likely to be reduced with a focus on bookings guaranteed to make a profit.

Libraries are also being reviewed - there are five in the borough - and are likely to see opening hours reduced.

The same goes for museums and leisure centres, although none have been earmarked for closure at this stage.

Regeneration A 25-per cent cut in the highways budget could see roads deteriorate and potholes repaired more slowly.

Street lights will be switched off to make a 15 per cent saving in the budget.

The planning enforcement of rogue developments and licensing crackdowns will be scaled back as the council focuses on the core duties of assessing planning and licensing applications.


Back-office functions, including the council's PR team, finance, legal and democratic services departments, are facing a 35 per cent cut as bosses try to protect the front line.

Capita Symonds, which runs some of the council’s services under a multimillion pound contract signed in 2001, has agreed to £900,000 savings, although the contract makes it is exempt from the same scale of cuts the council is facing.