This week we face sad and worrying times in Blackburn as a consequence of the vicious cuts imposed by the Tory High Executioners in Westminster supported by their Liberal Democrat poodles. The members of those parties locally should hang their heads in shame at the damage their colleagues in Government are inflicting on our town and our people.
This Thursday Blackburn with Darwen’s Executive Board will put in train a process that ultimately will lead to around 1000 people losing their jobs and from the end of March we will see Council services slashed and in some instances discontinued all together.
The loss of these jobs will have devastating affect on the local economy and together with the decline in services no family living in the Borough will be left unaffected.
Blackburn with Darwen is faced by a cut of nearly £28 million in this year alone, despite your Labour Council trying hard to protect front line services all key areas have been hit. We have reduced Councillors allowances by 10%, cut the number of senior officers by 30%, made efficiencies by sharing our management with health and greatly reduced back office costs but in reality these are but a drop in the ocean given the size of the short fall in the funding we have received..
Sadly, therefore I have to inform you that from April there will be less street cleaning, less care for the elderly, less provision for our young people, less buses, reduced hours in libraries, leisure centres and less help and advice for those on benefits, just when we need it most. There will be less delivered by the voluntary sector, the health sector and the Police Authority
On Thursday and in the weeks and months ahead however, we will not forget where the blame for such damaging consequences lies. The Tories have always looked out for their banker friends with their bonuses in the City and those who live in the affluent areas of the country. It is patently unfair that a Council like Blackburn has been hit harder than the leafy Boroughs of the south or the rural parts of the North West.
When David Cameron and George Osborne cynically claim that we are all in this together we can be forgiven for resorting to so called un-parliamentary language by questioning their sincerity and honesty.
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.
The shortsightedness of Tory policy astounds me more each day. With every day the TV news and the local press highlight more drastic cuts announced by the local Council and the national government.
There has been much publicity surrounding Blackburn Council’s decision to close Shadsworth Leisure Centre as well as a string of community centres in deprived areas. What has received less publicity but is no less significant is the Tory Council’s decision to cut funding for Police Community Support Officers.
There has always been a sense of pride in Blackburn that we pioneered community policing – with police offices based in community centres and crime down. PCSOs form a vital part of this. They ensure a police presence on the street and have helped act as a deterrent to those considering criminal or anti-social behaviour.
The plans pushed through last week have put the Tory led Council in direct conflict with local police. Surely if other facilities are shut and jobs are lost we will need more police not less!
It’s quite simple though to the Tories – they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.