‘Unprecedented’ task means insurance cuts

Plan: The Harris Museum, above, and  Lancastria House, below, could have their insurance cover reduced under budget proposals.
Plan: The Harris Museum, above, and Lancastria House, below, could have their insurance cover reduced under budget proposals.
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Insurance could be cut back on landmark Preston Council buildings as part of city council plans to save almost £1m this year.

The Labour administration has put forward plans to scale back insurance premiums on a number of key buildings, including the Harris Museum, Preston Bus Station and car park, the indoor market and car park and Lancastria House.

Lancastria House

Lancastria House

Leaders say the move would save around £78,000, by removing cover for lost or stolen art from the Harris and not insuring the other buildings against ‘catastrophic perils’ such as fire or terrorist attacks, as they are earmarked for possible demolition. Council chiefs revealed in December last year that its city centre assets were being kept under continual review - with £113,000 unspecified savings earmarked in that area for 2014-15 - amid plans to knock down Preston Bus Station and fears over the long-term future of the Guild Hall.

The new budget papers warn the financial impact of the decision ‘in principle’ to demolish the station is not reflected in the forecast, as details of timings and interim costs are still being worked on. However, potential income from a new green energy wind turbine plan for Preston docks has been factored in to the long-term forecast. Further savings will be made through restructing of back office services and deleting vacant posts.

Coun Martyn Rawlinson, 
cabinet member for resources, said: “After the government grant settlement we had no choice but to look at everything.

“We have raised council tax by two per cent and I still think that represents value for money. I hope the public will understand that we have tried to protect what we see as vital public services as best we can. One job is too many to lose, but the council has slimmed down so much already.”

Coun Bill Shannon

Coun Bill Shannon

The Evening Post has 
previously revealed plans to cut weekend opening hours at Fulwood Leisure Centre and 
increase charges.

A new report by deputy chief executive Bernard Hayes, to be discussed by the cabinet tomorrow night, warns the council is “facing unprecedented financial challenges” and “tough 
decisions.” Plans to increase council tax by two per cent means the council will not be able to claim a Government grant for freezing the bills, which would generate £500,000 less than raising the tax.

Coun Eric Fazackerley, 
Conservative finance spokesman, said he was working on an alternative budget and would propose to his group the idea of cutting councillor numbers from 57 to 40 and having all-out elections every four years.

The Liberal Democrat group has also proposed cutting councillor numbers and sharing more backroom services with neighbouring councils. Coun Bill Shannon, Liberal Democrat group leader, described Labour’s budget proposals as “not transparent and not robust.”