Council passes multi-million pound package of cuts

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The multi-million pound raft of cuts proposed by Lancashire County Council has been passed in a tense late-night meeting.

Cuts totalling almost £65m were passed, meaning that services such as libraries, buses and highways will be slashed.

But there was one bit of good news for Blackpool – a proposed £314,000 cut to tram funding was reversed.

The proposed cuts were largely passed, despite some slight changes brought about by ammendments from the various political groups – they included the creation of a new contingency fund and the scrapping of plans to reduce the county’s funding for flood protection.

Several groups of protestors paraded outside County Hall, calling on the councillors inside to save beloved local services including rural bus routes and a homeless project in Lancaster.

David Hudson, chairman of Stop the Buses Ribchester, said: “There are lots of levels on which people are affected, young people can’t get to school, the elderly can’t get to hospital appointments.

“The issues we have is that the consultation is flawed – the whole process is flawed.”

After the vote was passed, council leader Jennifer Mein said: “We face an unprecedented financial challenge as a result of relentless cuts in central government funding combined with a rising demand for our services, which means we’ve had to take a number of extremely difficult decisions.

“We are acutely aware of the impact of these decisions and have listened to the views of local people before finalising the budget. I’m pleased that we have been able to come up with an innovative solution to transport vulnerable elderly and disabled people to our day centres, and to support the use of the Blackpool Tramway, despite the severe financial constraints.

“However we’ve had no choice but to cut a number of services that people value, because the council simply can’t afford to deliver them anymore. I cannot explain just how difficult it is to make decisions like these and yet the reality is that there are more ahead as the council will have to find a further £200m of savings by 2020.

“We also need to spend the council’s useable reserves to balance the budget over the next two years and it is not clear at this point how we will be able to deliver even statutory services beyond that point.”