Rivals unite to save county from cash crisis

County Councillor Tony Jones.
County Councillor Tony Jones.

Parties have put political rivalries aside to call for the Government to pull Lancashire out of a financial ‘black hole’.

Lancashire county councillors from all groups joined forces in an unprecedented bid to get Theresa May’s regime to look again at funding to our cash-strapped county.

Long standing Tory councillor Tony Jones said: “If we’re not getting a fair deal for Lancashire we have a duty to say so, whichever party is in Government.

“Our first duty as county councillors is to Lancashire and its people.”

Now the county council will write to the Prime Minister and other senior cabinet members asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the seriousness of the county cash crisis.

The council also wants an urgent meeting with all Lancashire MPs to gain their support in levering extra Government money for the county.

This comes just weeks after a report said the county’s finances were “not sustainable”.

The report by independent consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers said the council will need to make savings of £148m in 2020/21, even allowing for council tax increases of 3.99% every year for the next four years.

It also forecast that the council’s reserves, currently being used to balance its budget, will run out in 2018/19.

The county council also faces an annual spending gap of £79m by 2020/21.

Earlier this year the council agreed to sell off buildings including children’s centres, libraries and other services to save money.

Labour councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “It’s important to recognise that for the first time under our administration, all the political parties of the county council put their principles before politics at full council.”

Coun Jones, who represents Morecambe North, said: “The original motion contained criticisms of Theresa May but I am glad they took the political element out.

“Going down to London and banging tables doesn’t do any good. We should set out in writing exactly what the problems are and why we feel Lancashire should be getting a better settlement.

“In Lancashire we have a low council tax base with lots of properties in Band A and we have an ageing population. These are serious worries.”

Bill Winlow, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the county council, said: “We didn’t really expect the Conservatives to agree to it. But I’ve been saying to (Tory leader) Geoff Driver for weeks that he must try to work with us.

“We want MPs to come down and look at the real figures.

“Most of them have never worked in local government and don’t understand that we are at the sharp end of dealing with major problems for individual people.”