Leader’s bid for better budget deal

Talks: Coun Rankin has spoken to MP Nick Boles over finance
Talks: Coun Rankin has spoken to MP Nick Boles over finance
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The leader of Preston Council has taken his fight for more funding to Whitehall.

Coun Peter Rankin has held talks with Nick Boles, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Preston Council is one of the worst hit authorities in the country, with its total spending power cut by 6.4 per cent over the next year.

Over the past five years, the budget has been slashed 51 per cent.

Coun Rankin said: “We explained our problems to the MP and he listened to attentively.

“He seemed impressed with what we had to say.

“I gave him the problems in context. I said that in the year 2008/9 Preston Council had a central Government grant of £19m.

“Next year we’ll get £9.2m, which is a 51 per cent drop.

“It’s one of the worst settlements for local authorities in the country and is causing us to have big problems.

“We will have to wait a couple of weeks to find out if anything will change, but all we can do is hope for the best.”

The cut in spending power has prompted the council to look at the future of public buildings such as the bus station and the Guild Hall.

Last week Coun Rankin 
admitted at a public meeting that demolishing the entertainment venue was a possibility because of running costs.

He has now clarified his position, stating that the first option is looking to the private sector.

In a letter to the Evening Post, Coun Rankin said: “The situation is that the Guild Hall costs the council £1m a year to run.

“We must slash these costs.

“To do so we intend to talk to promoters and other leisure and entertainment businesses to see if they can run it with less of a 
subsidy or no subsidy.

“A further option is the sale of the building to a leisure company.

“We have been discussing 
options over the past few months and will shortly be announcing a way forward. Demolition is not an option at this stage and, as with the bus station, will only be an option if a more suitable replacement were to be proposed.

“It would clearly be unthinkable for Preston not to have an entertainment venue.”