Children’s services are facing axe in cutbacks

Under Threat: Briercliffe Library.
Under Threat: Briercliffe Library.

Children, the elderly and vulnerable people in some of Burnley’s most deprived neighbourhoods could see vital lifelines lost in the next stage of Lancashire County Council cuts.

Community centres, children’s centres and libraries across Burnley and Padiham have been identified at being at risk of closure.

I think savings could have been made elsewhere without picking on really important services that are a part of people’s everyday lives

Coun. Gordon Birtwistle

The county council is currently embarking on the biggest set of cost-cutting measures in its history as it seeks to make millions of pounds of savings in light of Government funding cuts.

Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said the council faced “relentless central government cuts” against a backdrop of rising demand for services.

A county council properties document sets out those buildings at risk across Burnley.

In the Burnley Central area, four out of the following centres will be closed: Burnley Youth Zone, Burnley The Fold, Coal Clough Library, Burnley CAPSS (Easden Clough), Burnley City Learning Centre, Stoops and Hargher Clough Young People’s Centre, Brunshaw Young People’s Centre, Belmont Community Centre, and Pike Hill Library.

In Burnley North, two of the following facilities will close: Burnley And Pendle Service (Temple Street), Burnley Campus Library, The Chai Centre, Burnley Library, Burnley Register Office, Stoneyholme and Daneshouse Young People’s Centre, Briercliffe Library.

In the Burnley Outer area, two of the following will be closed: Padiham Young People’s Centre, Rosegrove Library, Gannow Community Centre, Padiham Library, Hapton Young People’s Centre.

The scale of potential cuts has angered former Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle who slammed Lancashire County Council as “the most inefficient organisation I’ve ever come across.”

The Burnley LibDem councillor, who has called in the past for the county council to be scrapped in favour of a unitary system, said savings could have been made elsewhere.

Coun. Birtwistle added: “The services identified by the county council will affect the most vulnerable in our society – the young and elderly.

“I think savings could have been made elsewhere without picking on really important services that are a part of people’s everyday lives.

“For instance, I believe that the county’s Direct Works department, which carries out capital jobs, could be cut and contracts leased out instead.

“I agree that the Government has gone totally over the top in its funding cuts, but there are other areas where the county could make savings.

“I have said many times before that a number of borough councils and Lancashire County Council should be scrapped and reorganised into a unitary authority. I think services could be better protected in that scenario.”

The proposals, among others, were discussed before the county council’s Cabinet on Thursday.

These also included:

• Removing funding for all subsidised bus services, to save £7.5m. a year.

• Reducing the county council’s library network from 74 libraries to 34, to save £7m.

• Ending the funding of five museums: Queen Street Mill, Helmshore, Museum of Lancashire, Judges’ Lodgings, Fleetwood Museum.

• Removing the subsidy for discretionary denominational transport.

• Reducing the Highways budget by £2.8m.

• Reducing the priority gritting network by 10% and scrapping the secondary gritting network.

Meanwhile, users of the Chai Centre in Stoneyholme have prepared a 200 name petition to try to save it from possible closure.