Town hall jobs to go as budget slashed

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Burnley councillors are preparing to set one of the most challenging budgets in the town’s history as the authority tries to make unprecedented savings of £3m. over the next three years.

Council chiefs have vowed to protect front-line services where possible and invest in priority projects but warned some town hall staff will lose their jobs.

They said the reduction in funding from central government, which makes up half the money spent by the council, was to blame for the cuts which will see spending reduced by 19% between 2014 and 2017.

Council tax will increase under the proposals but bosses at Burnley Council said the rise would remain below inflation.

The council is proposing a net revenue budget of £15.7m. for 2014/15 which involves making a range of immediate savings, including redundancies.

As part of the money-saving measures the council will set up Burnley Leisure Trust to run the Mechanics and the borough’s leisure centres from April in a move which will save £300,000 a year.

A new waste contract starting next year is also expected to generate savings.

The council is proposing a capital budget of £15.4m. for the next financial year, which will be spent on the replacement of bin wagons, public realm work, the Prairie Sports Academy, housing work including the Empty Homes Programme, and the Weavers’ Triangle.

Town hall chiefs said further cuts would have to be made in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Coun. Mark Townsend, Executive member for resources, said: “Burnley is facing severe financial challenges, not only this coming year but also in years to come due to the unfair way government distributes grant to councils. We will continue to lobby government hard for a fairer deal, and we have had some success, but we have to plan for the worst case scenario. 

“We’re taking a responsible approach and planning ahead, not just over the next 12 months but further ahead so we’re in the strongest position possible to face those challenges. We are raising council tax below the current level of inflation to help protect services from some of the massive reductions in Government funding we are facing.

“We will do everything we can to protect core services to the public and maintain our high standards but we can’t shy away from the fact some tough decisions will have to be made.

“This budget takes a balanced and sensible approach, protecting essential services that are top priorities for our residents while at the same time finding innovative ways of saving money and improving efficiency.”

Speaking about the leisure trust plans, Coun. John Harbour, Executive member for leisure and culture, added: “Burnley has some of the best leisure facilities in Lancashire.

“Creating Burnley Leisure will ensure this remains the case and all our residents continue to receive high-quality leisure services.

“We are committed to ensuring Burnley Leisure will be a success and continue to provide excellent services.”

The Executive will agree its budget proposals on February 17th and the council will formally set the budget at a special meeting on February 26th.