For six years now we have been faced with having to save tens of millions of pounds from the council’s budget.
It was a near impossible task to begin with but gets harder and harder every year.
Taking money out of services, or increasing charges, isn’t what any of us got involved with local government or politics for and I, for one, am sick of it.
The Government’s saving target for us this year is £18m. That number is almost too large to comprehend, particularly when you add it to over £100m that we have already had to find in the past.
In previous years we have tried to protect the services that you access, but there has undoubtedly been an effect. Like you, I live in Blackpool too, and have felt the differences like everybody else.
Services have suffered in the past, but this year we have tried to protect them as much as possible. At the rate that money is being saved, the only way that this council will survive is by being entrepreneurial, investing in our people and businesses and in turn generating our own income, instead of relying on the Government’s ever decreasing grants.
Over the next three years we will be looking at the possibility of transferring existing council services into wholly owned companies. There are financial benefits to establishing these companies and this in turn protects the services that we know are important to the residents of Blackpool but don’t have a secure future under the current funding arrangements.
We are also proposing to invest £17.5 million to fund the development of a hotel on the Wilko’s site.
As a Council, we have the ability to borrow money at a lower interest rate than others. We need to take this opportunity and use it to our advantage, both to help businesses in the town to expand but to guarantee the council an income, and potentially even a budget surplus, year in, year out.
The new tramway extension will do this, as will the conference centre at the Winter Gardens, as would new high-end hotels, as would new retail, leisure and tourism facilities, as would improved transport links.
This investment is absolutely crucial to create jobs, to boost visitor numbers, boost the economy, and secure income for future generations.
By doing this, we will help to secure the future of vital services, as well as getting more people into work and improving the town as a whole so that it can stand on its own two feet in the future.
The next few years will be a tough period, but hopefully the level of investment will make sure that it also is a positive and exciting one for the town.