On Friday 27 February, the full council met to discuss this year’s budget proposals. The proposals were passed with 25 councillors voting in favour and nine against. Here, Cllr Simon Blackburn, Leader of Blackpool Council explains the tough decisions the authority had to make and will have to make in the future.
February 27 was a truly grim day and certainly one that, coming into politics, I never expected to have to deal with.
Although I am satisfied that we have a budget that is achievable and protects vital services, it is with a very heavy heart that I agreed to a £26 million reduction in budget and the loss of 300 jobs.
As in previous years we hope the vast majority of the redundancies will be voluntary and we are working with people to support them into setting up new careers or their own businesses.
Clearly it’s a very difficult time to be doing anything like that as well. These are all excellent people doing jobs that need to be done.
That makes it all the more difficult.
Looking to the future we need to plan how we are going to continue to provide services to those who need it most in the face of the likelihood of further cuts in the future.
We’ve had huge success in attracting external funding from the Growth Deal which shows that the Government understand what needs to be done and the freedoms we need to stand on our own two feet.
We’ve got our £45m Better Start project, the Head Start scheme to assist teenagers suffering with mental health issues, we’ve brought in £2.4m from the Coastal Communities Fund. It’s all good stuff but we can only bid for what is available and I’m concerned that overall, for Local Government, there isn’t enough.
We need to look at what has happened in Greater Manchester with the announcement that their £6 billion health and social care budget being devolved to the region. That’s something that I’ll be pushing for in Blackpool and lobbying Government ministers and shadow ministers for. With similar arrangements I believe we could make an enormous and co-ordinated impact.
The elections are upon us and I’ll be in trouble if I say too much in this particular space about them. This is a space for council business not party politics.
However, as Leader of the Council I would urge you, whoever you may support, to make sure you are registered to vote.
We have both local and general elections for the first time since 1997 so it’s vital that you make your vote count.
To check you’re registered, call our electoral services team on 477490 or 477161.