Council leader hits out at ‘brutal’ cuts as city faces £3m savings

Preston Town Hall

Preston Town Hall

Preston Council chiefs have today slammed the settlement they have received from central Government after it was confirmed they must save more than £3m over the next three financial years.

Council bosses say they will face cuts of almost 14 per cent in direct government grants in the next year.

However, government figures say the total amount the council has to spend, which includes cash raised from council tax, special grants for building new homes and other revenue streams, will only see the council’s total spending power cut by around 4.7 per cent next year.

Leader of Preston Council Peter Rankin said: “It is pretty dire, but it’s not a shock. With the government we were expecting nothing less than this but we are trying our best to manage it.”

He said “everything” is still under threat and the announcement has confirmed the council’s “fears and expectations.”

Preston’s MP Mark Hendrick added: “The scale of the settlement is abhorrent, particularly when you consider the scale of the other cuts that have been imposed since 2010.

“Really, the services provided by Preston Council have been cut to the bone already and there is no fat left.

“This is cutting into the bone, and the services and jobs provided by Preston Council are being put at risk.”

The figures released by the government show that Lancashire County Council is set to see its spending power cut by 2.6 per cent, South Ribble Council by 4.4 per cent, Ribble Valley Council by 2.3 per cent, Wyre Council by 3.7 per cent and Fylde by 1.2 per cent.

Figures appear to show that Chorley Council will be better off with an increase of 0.5 per cent spending power.

However the authorities have looked at the figures in real terms based on their cash settlements and direct government grants and say in reality the funding cuts they face are much higher.

Chorley Council say they face a real term cut of 14 per cent and Ribble Valley Council say they face a cut of 12 per cent.

South Ribble Council said bosses were still looking at the final details of the settlement.

Preston Council’s cabinet member for resources, Coun Martyn Rawlinson, described the cuts as “grim.”

He added: “We are having to look right across the board because there are so many savings to be made.”

County Coun Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We know that we face a huge financial challenge as a result of unprecedented cuts made by central government and today’s announcement doesn’t change that. In terms of the next financial year there do not seem to be any major surprises.”

Concerns have been raised once again about how late the councils have found out about their settlements.

Coun Peter Wilson, deputy leader of Chorley Council, said: “Once again we are finding ourselves in the position of having to wait until just before Christmas to find out what our settlement will be from the Government, which makes it extremely hard for us to plan for the year ahead. It’s baffling as to why this announcement has come so late in the day and very cynical of them to do this just before Christmas when in reality they will have known what they would be offering to councils a long time ago.”

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