Deputy leader protests over Lancashire County Council cut with letter to PM
As A decision looms on a mass sell-off of Lancashire County Council buildings, the council's deputy leader has written to David Cameron to protest about the cuts.
County councillors are set to approve a timetable to decide which of 220 council properties could become multi-service centres, and which are surplus to requirements.
The outcome will decide the future of many of the county’s much-loved public buildings ranging from libraries to children’s centres and adult day centres.
It is reviewing its property portfolio in a bid to help multi-million pound cuts in premises running costs.
The cabinet proposes to name the properties it believes should be retained as new look Neighbourhood Centres on May 12, after consulting with county councillors and other public sector organisations.
The public will then be consulted over the summer, before the cabinet meets again on September 8 to make a final decision on the buildings it has chosen and those earmarked for disposal or alternative use.
It is already known the council wants to close 40 libraries to save money and claw back more cash by centralising services locally with centres acting as service hubs.
Meanwhile, Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of the county council, has this week written to Prime Minister David Cameron, criticising the “giant disconnect between central and local government”.
His letter says: “Decisions taken nationally to cut our budget lines as they appear on paper do little to understand the practical challenge of delivering those savings at local level.
“You know that councils cannot run deficits so the challenge of having to balance our budget in 2016-17 is now a colossal one and one that will not be able to be achieved without making reductions to services and increasing the tax burden.”
Coun Borrow has also called for funding to be distributed “on the basis of need”, to recognise pressure on local authorities which deliver social care.
Local consultations will continue this month with other public sector partners to see if any LCC buildings could have shared use.
The sale of surplus properties will follow as the council seeks to makesavings.
A report to the cabinet meeting today notes: “The running costs for all 202 premises is £6.4m and if 108 premises were vacated and sold there would be £1.95m of savings a year.
It says: “Neighbourhood Centres will provide a base for the provision of services currently delivered through a range of single function buildings such as children’’s centres, libraries, child and parenting support centres and adult day centres.”
The new Neighbourhood Centres will, it predicts, be “community focussed multi-functional buildings” delivering services including ones specifically targeted to local needs .
County councillors have been asked to give their views on which properties would make good Centres locally.
The council says the changes will create ”a smaller and more affordable property portfolio.”
Any decisions will it says be guided by factors such as how deprived an area is, location, financial efficiency of proeprties, how easy they are to vacate and whether they can accommodate multiple services.
The report to cabinet says there may be opportunities for working differently with partners and communities in local areas and has pledged to take into account “local intelligence from communities, councillors and partners” to understand the current role council buildings play and how the right ones can be retained.