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£2m from Pendle Council reserves will offset cut in funding
10:00am Friday 1st March 2013 in News
Councillors in Pendle will dip into the authority’s reserves to balance the books for 2013-14, sparing the borough from “savage cuts” that could have led to the closure of services in West Craven.
Last week, Pendle Council agreed a budget that will see the authority use nearly £2.4 million from its reserves to help offset a £1.7 million reduction in funding from central government.
Around £860,000 worth of savings will be made over the coming year and another £450,000 of staff savings, from either job losses or deletion of posts, were agreed.
However, proposals by the Labour Party, to save £150,000 by reducing the number of councillors from 49 to 33 and axing chief executive Stephen Barnes to let Burnley Council’s chief executive Steve Rumbelow take the helm of both authorities, were defeated.
“I was quite staggered by the Labour group’s proposals, which would have amounted to a takeover by Burnley,” said Barnoldswick’s Craven ward councillor David Whipp (Lib Dem).
“Effectively Burnley Council would have been running Pendle affairs, something that would have been completely unpalatable to local residents.
“The only way to achieve their proposals in the short-term would have been to take one councillor out of the three-members seats, which were virtually all Liberal Democrat or Conservative (including two in Barnold-swick and one in Earby), artificially increasing Labour’s effect on the council.”
Coun Mohammed Iqbal, Labour leader, said: “The huge cuts being imposed on areas like Pendle from this Tory and Liberal Democrat government mean that we have to take big decisions. Sharing Burnley Council’s chief executive would save a large amount of money for hard-pressed Pendle taxpayers.”
Coun Whipp said Labour’s proposals would also have cut Barnoldswick and Earby council shops and reduced funding for Barnoldswick’s Rainhall Centre.
Instead, both council shops would be closing one hour earlier during the week and would no longer be open on Saturdays, but Coun Whipp said it was important the council was still providing the service to residents.
Another cut that will have an effect on West Craven is the two-week closure of the West Craven Sports Centre in Barnoldswick over the Christmas and new year period, which will save £8,600 in staffing costs.
Coun Whipp said councillors managed to “fight off” proposals to close public toilets in West Craven, which has more than half of the council’s public conveniences provision.
“The axe was hanging over several of the toilets in West Craven,” he said. “There was talk about keeping Salterforth only open during the summer months.”
Earby councillor Morris Horsfield (Con) said he would support a reduction in councillors, but indicated he would prefer Pendle to save money by holding borough councillor elections every four years, not every two. He said: “I agreed with what went through. Pendle’s rates won’t be going up and that’s the most important thing.”
Coun Whipp added that if the council used £2 million in reserves for every budget, the fund would be depleted within four or five years, but overall he was pleased severe cuts had been staved off for another year.