Calls for ‘bold’ vision to tackle Preston’s £3.6m budget blow

VIEWS: Councillors Martyn Rawlinson (above), Ken Hudson and Bill Shannon
VIEWS: Councillors Martyn Rawlinson (above), Ken Hudson and Bill Shannon
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The leader of Preston’s Conservative group said “bold” decisions must be made to tackle the city’s £3.6m budget cuts.

Coun Ken Hudson said local government had taken the brunt of Westminster cuts, but he hoped Preston Council could find a solution to save the underthreat Guild Hall.

Coun Bill Shannon

Coun Bill Shannon

His statement came after the city council announced proposals for wide-reaching cuts, affecting almost every service.

Coun Hudson said: “What we’ve got to do within the next 12 months is find a solution which allows the city to still have a cultural offer. We are a city, we are a regional centre for culture and a solution to the Guild Hall has to be found within the next 12 months. The thoughts of demolition just don’t bear thinking about so we need to work with the private sector to try to find a solution to the cultural offer.”

He said the Guild Hall cost the city £1m a year and said there was a “short window of opportunity” to find an answer.

He said: “It’s no good messing with £10,000 or £20,000 here and there when we have got £3.6m to find so we’ve got to be bold, but it’s all a question of how we do it.”

Ken Hudson

Ken Hudson

Coun Hudson said he was concerned about the possibility of cutting funding for police community support officers.

He said: “From a public safety point of view, the public really do expect to be safe on the streets, and the fact we’ve got PCSOs – they give people a sense of security.”

He added: “The problem is that a lot of the back-office cuts have been made in previous years and unfortunately cuts are now heading for front line services. Nothing is inevitable but it will be very difficult to not reduce the work force.

“It’s very grim, but there’s no good us being ostriches and sticking our head in the sand.

“There’s a real problem out there - the size of local government is reducing and the government have billions to find in order to solve the country’s problems, and unfortunately local government has born the brunt of that cut.”

Deputy Conservative group leader Eric Fazackerley added: “I think it’s a recognition of the difficulties that the council and others up and down the country are in.”

Preston’s Liberal Democrat leader Coun Bill Shannon said: “There is absolutely no way we are going to accept cutting back on PCSOs. We will be saying they should stop wasting money on 24-7 manned CCTV in the city centre. Having someone sat in front of it doesn’t make anything like the contribution PCSOs make.”

Labour Coun Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources, said: “Our contribution doesn’t directly affect the number of PCSOs there is going to be, but it’s a shame to end that kind of partnership working.”

He added that the council was working hard to find a solution to the Guild Hall within the time limit of the budget.