Imagine waking up tomorrow and finding your household income down by a quarter. What would you cut from your household budget and what effect would that have, do you pay your mortgage or buy food?
That’s the problem we face in Blackburn because of the Tory led Coalition Government.
As a result of cuts being handed out by the government – 22% cuts in our budget next financial year alone (£28 million) we face terrible dilemmas about the future of vital services in the towns and communities of Blackburn with Darwen.
A farcical situation has been engineered where poor areas such as Blackburn, Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn are being asked to make huge cuts whilst more than more affluent areas like Ribble Valley, Fylde and the Southern shires with Tory MP’s are having their funding protected.
To make matters worse the Government are telling bare faced lies in claiming we only have to make 8.9% cuts. In calculating our budget they have conveniently left off nearly £30m in grants that we expected but which have been withdrawn. They refuse to explain why and instead they have chosen to use friendly national media in order to spin their way out of what they have done.
Despite this the local Labour administration is trying to minimise the impact of these cuts but the public needs to realise that the reduction in funding is so savage that services will have to change. People will have to pay more in certain areas, services will operate differently and we will have less to spend on many services people think are important such as highways and environmental services.
To minimise the damage to front line services we have already made savings by cutting 8 directors posts and senior manager posts which has saved £2 million. We are also cutting our back office functions by 35%. Despite this we still have to make millions of pounds of cuts that inevitably will reduce services provided to the public.
Throughout the difficult process in the months ahead our focus will remain on ensuring that the most vulnerable people in our communities are protected as much as possible. However, let’s be clear, these are the worst cuts local government has ever faced. They are even worse than the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher and we all know the impact those cuts had on society leaving a generation with no hope. It is ironic that this time the Tories are being assisted by the Liberal Democrats who despite trying to promote themselves as the champions of localism and fairness have chosen to sign up this savage attack on our communities in return for ministerial privileges.