The leader of Burnley Borough Council has accused the Government of making “wrongheaded decisions”, which he claims have forced another Council Tax rise on the residents of Burnley.
The Labour leader of Burnley Council, Coun. Mark Townsend, was speaking at a special budget meeting where he announced a 2.99% rise in Council Tax.
That equates to less than 11p per week for Band A properties, the majority of households in the borough.
Over the past 12 months Burnley Council has had to find more than £1.9m. of savings to balance the books. That figure has brought total savings in Burnley of more than £10m. since 2013/14.
Coun. Townsend said: “In December, the Government revealed that Burnley’s Local Government Finance Settlement is going to be almost £494,000 less than the previous year.
"Up and down the country, councils and council tax-payers are being forced to pay for wrong-headed decisions made in Whitehall.
“Decisions that since day one we’ve said would have grave consequences further down the line. They continue to lecture us about living within our means, yet this government continues to force more responsibilities on to us and expects our hard-up residents to pay for the privilege.
“More often than not, these responsibilities have been in areas that they’ve cut to the bone already.”
The council’s medium term financial strategy highlights the severe financial challenges it faces.
There is a further cumulative 21.3% funding gap for the next three-year period, equating to a further £3.2m. of savings to find.
However, Coun. Townsend said there was also some cause for optimism, particularly in the council’s commerciality strategy, which he said demonstrated the authority’s “enterprising approach to increasing income”.
This, he said, had led to the recent opening of Vision Park in Active Way, which is expected to create 300 jobs.
He said: “We believe, by being innovative, creative and ambitious we can achieve income generation.
“Our investment in the recently opened Vision Park, our state-of-the-art development for new and growing businesses in Burnley’s knowledge quarter, will not only create 300 new jobs but will also generate income for the council.”
Coun. Townsend also said that the council would be allocating just over £10m. in the capital budget for 2018/19.
This includes new projects such as flood defences for Padiham, a new artificial pitch at the Prairie, play area improvements at three parks and a fund to support ambitious plans for the town centre and Weavers’ Triangle.
The leader also said that Burnley’s bid to become a “university town”, with the news that the University of Central Lancashire will be increasing its presence in Burnley, would have a positive impact on the local economy.
He added: “The recent decision by UCLAN to invest in Burnley to grow student numbers tenfold to 4,000 by 2025 is welcomed and testament to the reputation we have built.
“Our challenge now is to work and invest with partners to make this a great destination for students. The opportunities for new jobs, new businesses and a more vibrant economy will benefit existing and new residents.
"Despite the tough financial position we face, Burnley Council is committed to focus on maintaining high quality essential services to our residents; services that residents and the council see as their priorities. We will continue to provide value for money, and to squeeze the maximum value from every penny spent.
"Our auditors continue to commend us for our robust financial planning.
"The drive for efficiency and transformation is relentless. With enterprise, ambition and leadership we can deliver better outcomes for our residents."