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County council unveils raft of spending cuts for West Lancashire
07 January 2011

By David Simister

County council leader County Councillor Geoff Driver is backing the cuts.

The axe is set to fall on several of West Lancashire's frontline services after the county council announced it will be slashing £179 million from its budget.

Lancashire County Council unveiled reductions in spending on a host of services, including public transport, libraries and care services at a cabinet meeting held yesterday (January 6, 2011), with the aim of trimming spending by £179.1m over the next three years.

But the Conservative-controlled council defended the cuts by saying that council tax will be frozen at its current level over the next financial year and limiting any increases over the following two to 2.5%, and said it would be investing in the region's roads to deal with problems caused by the recent icy weather.

“The Cabinet has already agreed that we will spend £133m less on management and administration over the next three years, because we want to shield the frontline as much as we can. Where the savings do affect frontline services, in many cases they will be made possible by new and more efficient approaches,” said County Council Geoff Driver, council leader.

“But there is no escaping we have to make some very tough decisions and our goal has been to ensure the proposal feels as fair as it can be in the context of having to make substantial savings.”

Phil Halsall, the council's chief executive designate, said the county council was a large organisation and needed to ensure that hundreds of its vital services will be effective even when there is far less money available.

Among the cuts being planned by the county coucil are:

• A reduction in spending in older people's day care and associated transport by £300,000

• Reducing the number of the county council's mobile libraries from 11 to 9

• No longer offering care services to West Lancashire residents whose needs are classed as “moderate” rather than “critical”

• Reducing staff levels at the county's libraries by 16% over the next three years

• Closing five of the county's 10 children's care homes

• The closure of four of the county's household waste recycling centres, on top of the four - including Rufford - which were already earmarked for closure last year

• The reduction and withdrawal of more than a dozen of the county's bus routes, including the complete withdrawal of the 315 service, which runs between Southport, Tower Hill and Ormskirk

• The end of tree planting under the county council's waste PFI contracts, meaning the loss of 40 hectares of new woodland in the county each year

The proposals have been attacked by the council's Labour opposition group said that the people of the county have been disproportionately hit by the measures, which they blame on “unfair and destructive” measures being made on local authorities by the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition Government.

“Lancashire has seen a bigger cut than the shire county average and today we have the confirmation that frontline services will bear 70% of the cuts over the coming years,” said Cllr Jennifer Mein, the group's leader, of the cuts.

“Don’t believe the rhetoric, these are cuts to frontline services that thousands of residents rely on across the county.”

Following consultation over the next month, the budget proposals will be brought back to the council's cabinet meeting on February 3. Cabinet members will then agree a final budget recommendation to go to the full meeting of the county council for approval on February 17. 


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