The leader of Lancashire County Council is seeking cross party agreement on “unprecedented” changes at County Hall.
Millions of pounds worth of Government imposed cuts could spell the end for many of the council’s current services and County Coun Jennifer Mein says the “very difficult decisions” need to be agreed with all councillors.
With many county council staff facing anxious months waiting to see if they will be made redundant, Liberal Democrat leader County Coun Bill Winlow said he believed northern councils were being unfairly hit.
He said: “I really think the cuts have gone too far. Staff are upset obviously. This isn’t the situation we were expected to be in. In my view the council has looked after its budget pretty well over the years.
“It could well result in a number of people being asked to leave and that’s not something any of us went into politics to do. We appear to be taking a harder hit than many other southern authorities.”
Coun Geoff Driver, Tory group leader, added he wanted to know what the administration’s priorities would be, adding: “It’s premature to be saying it’s all the fault of the government’s austerity measures.”
It could well result in a number of people being asked to leave and that’s not something any of us went into politics to do.Coun Bill Winlow
In a time-to-talk move the ruling Labour group had asked officers to prepare a budget list for all councillors on the services the council will be legally obliged to provide in the years ahead and those it has no statutory obligations to deliver.
The first budget strategy working group met yesterday and party groups and the county’s local councils are being briefed at separate meetings throughout the week, with information also available for staff.
Coun Mein said: “The kind of budget cuts we are facing are absolutely unprecedented. They are very, very difficult decisions. If we can make them in a consensual way with the rest of the county council we will do, because that’s in the interests of all residents.
“That’s the idea of the budget strategy working group. I’m hoping for some sensible feedback.”
Central government funding has reduced by £46m since 2014/15 with the council’s net budget for 2015/16 standing at £727m. The council says on current reckoning it would be £8.5m short of the £692.7m cash needed to meet its legal obligations in 2017/18.
Unison, which represents 10,000 county council staff across Lancashire, has called a meeting of shop stewards for November 4.
Some 2,500 job losses are predicted between 2014-18, but branch leader Elaine Cotterell said it was feared many more jobs could go because of the number of part time staff, adding: “Staffing levels are cut to the bone now.”