Jobs and services at Burnley Council are to be slashed in a dramatic bid to generate savings totalling more than £3m.
At the first 2011 meeting of the borough council on Thursday the majority of councillors approved the biggest cuts the town has ever faced.
In the coming weeks 67 council employees will be made redundant while a further 28 positions, which are currently vacant, will be axed across the board.
Council chiefs have said most of the job cuts will be in housing and neighbourhoods, leisure and recreation and Streetscene.
It will also spell the end of the council’s involvement with the Spirit of Sport Centre in Ormerod Road, the end of neighbourhood management services, an increase in charges for leisure services, reduction in opening hours of the Visit Burnley tourist information centre, reduction in park maintenance, greater risk of benefits backlogs and a reduction in services for the unemployed.
Last month the Express revealed Burnley has been one of the hardest-hit towns in the country after Government cash set to be handed to the borough council was slashed by £1.9m.
The town’s Labour group had argued the cuts were too severe but the council’s Lib-Dem leader Coun. Charlie Briggs said there was no choice.
Leader of the Conservative group Coun. Peter Doyle said the cuts were regrettable but unavoidable: “Every borough in the land, I’m sure, will want more and more money. There are an awful lot of deserving cases. The Government could only get more money by borrowing it. Let’s look to preserve frontline services.
“If we don’t pass these now to achieve the savings we need to achieve, we would then have to make even more people redundant to balance the budget,” he said.
Coun. Sharon Wilkinson, leader of Burnley’s British National Party group, said she would not support cuts to services in Burnley and Padiham.
The meeting prompted Labour to propose a motion objecting to the cuts but, following a debate, that call was rejected and an amended version set out by the Lib-Dems was carried instead.
Labour group leader Coun. Julie Cooper branded the cuts “catastrophic, unfair and downright immoral.”
She said it was unjust that affluent neighbourhoods such as Kensington and Chelsea had comparatively small cuts while struggling towns with high levels of deprivation like Burnley were hit hardest. But Coun. Margaret Lishman, the council’s Executive member for resources, accused Coun. Cooper of “scaremongering” and “playing politics with people’s situations.”
Coun. Briggs said that despite the drastic measures he would continue to fight for the best deal for Burnley.
“I have been battling hard to get the best deal possible for Burnley – dealing in reality, specifics and logical argument.
“We got a transitional grant of £3.8m. over two years – this has at least lessened the blow. We have also reduced the front-loaded nature of the settlement, spreading the pain and giving us more time to plan for the future.”