Lancaster district cuts may pile on pressure for volunteers

The flag pole at Morecambe Town hall
The flag pole at Morecambe Town hall

Volunteers across the Lancaster district could be asked to step in to save vital services as the council faces massive cuts to its budget.

Crunch talks were held last night over the budget proposals as Lancaster City Council looks to save £5.6m over the next two years.

Lancaster Town Hall.

Lancaster Town Hall.

Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said it was the “worst situation” he has seen in all his 40 years in local government.

Coun Borrow said: “We are rapidly reaching tipping point, we are having to do awful things.

“There are some conservative MPs who are being helpful about the situation whereas there are others, like David Morris, who seem to think Lancashire County Council has got lots of money. The reality is a long way away from that.”

The deputy leader hinted parish councils or volunteers could possibly take over services that are facing cuts in the future.

Rather than pointing the finger of blame and doing a campaign to stop closures, people can get together to run it themselves

Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council

Libraries, museums, public transport and children’s services could all be cut.

Rural bus services were highlighted during the meeting at Morecambe Town Hall.

Some city councillors expressed concerns rural communities, including Carnforth, could be isolated from 8pm every night.

A revenue pot of £2m is available for supporting bus services across the district.

Coun Borrow said: “There are things we can do by working together, money can be raised locally too.

“The more people at a local level are able to raise funding and come up with imaginative solutions, the better we can be. If we are in discussions with people where there are real prospects with people taking over, then we are not simply going to get rid of something.”

Green party councillor Caroline Jackson asked if a similar community initiative could work for libraries.

Coun Borrow said: “We are prepared to talk to some people that want to run some library services on a voluntary basis.

“We plan to keep one library in a service area, others may not necessarily close but could be a community-based service delivering other services.

“Rather than pointing the finger of blame and doing a campaign to stop closures, people can get together to run it themselves.”

The Lancaster Guardian approached Coun Borrow after the meeting to ask if any volunteers had approached the county council.

He said: “We haven’t had any volunteers come forward yet but there may well be people who are thinking if their library will be vulnerable.

“We are in discussions with the Judge’s Lodgings group. We are seeing examples in Longton Parish where their council has increased their precept to run their own bus services.

“These are all possibilities, no final decision is yet to be made.”

Recommendations on the council’s budget are due to be made in May with a final decision in September.

If approved by full council plans will see huge changes to services. Cabinet will present its draft budget for 2016/17 onwards for initial consideration by the council on Wednesday February 3.