£7m cuts to council services

Council leader Coun Geoff Driver
Council leader Coun Geoff Driver

A £7m package of cuts was approved by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet today, with warnings more cuts will be announced over the next two months.

The cost cutting included a controversial decision to save £2.1m by halving the budget for maintenance and testing of street lights , end all night time inspections of such lights and finance any repairs from a different budget.

County Coun John Fillis

County Coun John Fillis

The cabinet also agreed to close some travel information centres and axe the members’ grants scheme which benefits many local voluntary organisations.

Support for sheltered care will also be reduced as the council struggles to meet a funding gap of £161m expected by 2021/22.

It was the £2.1m street lighting decision which drew the strongest reaction from councillors.

Coun John Fillis, deputy leader of the Labour opposition group claimed it meant the Tory run council will have chopped £2.6m from the highways budget in the past month .

Afterwards he said: “The Conservatives are cutting road safety and endangering local people.”

Council leader Coun Geoff Driver told him: “Let’s just be clear. We are not going to jeopardise safety in any way.”

He said any necessary repairs would now be financed from the council’s capital budget adding: “It is not a reduction in budget.

“ We are not taking £2.1m out of repairs budget, we are just financing it in a more appropriate way.”

Coun David Whipp said there were already “pools of inky darkness” between lights which the public complained about.

Cabinet member for highways County Coun Keith Iddon said savings on lighting maintenance were now possible as modern technology meant the LED lights used now have a five year guarantee. He said the public would also raise any concerns about any problems with lights, telling the meeting “We have to make these savings.”

Liberal Democrat Coun Whipp also spoke out against closing the travel information centres and a decision to reduce funding for maintenance of land owned but not used by the council, claiming it would lead to fly tipping.

Coun Driver said: ”We’re trying our very best to dispose of land and properties which are not needed.”

The travel information centres targeted include those at Preston Bus Station, Carnforth railway station and the Clitheroe interchange.

The cuts will go to the next meeting of the full county council to be rubber stamped.