HYNDBURN Council leader Peter Britcliffe was last night presenting a budget which he described as "the most comprehensive and exciting I can recall".
He said it was focused on improving frontline services and the things that local people consider important.
But the cost will be an extra 4.9 per cent on Hyndburn’s share of council tax and an increase of 3.3 per cent overall when county council, police and fire service precepts are taken into account.
The Tory leader blamed this on cuts in Government grant and said: "There are always going to be tough decisions to be made and we will never shirk from making them."
He added: "We have made sure the budget addresses issues that arise as a result of the recession with a particular emphasis on supporting local people and the economy."
Councillor Britcliffe said that last year the council put around £1M into initiatives aimed at tackling unemployment, including an apprenticeship scheme that is delivering work experience and qualifications to around 70 young people and has been so successful that it has been shortlisted for a national award.
This year it will be spending an extra £400,000 on this scheme as well as investing £1.2M in grants for business start-ups.
Among a series of wide-ranging initiatives in the budget are:
- Spending £130,000 on police community support officers, £150,000 on running the borough’s CCTV system and £20,000 on a scheme to ban street drinking to tackle alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour.
- Providing around £72,000 for street cleansing and improving blighted sites as part of a Green programme.
- Buying 5,000 sealable bags for people to put recyclable materials into and spending £18,000 on a new neighbourhood caretaker to help tackle problems like litter and dog dirt.
- Continuing the floral market town initiative, much criticised by the Labour opposition, with an extra £17,000 for flower towers and quality landscaping.
- Pressing on with a programme of housing facelifts, refurbishment and selective demolition in areas like West Accrington.
- Extending the free swimming scheme and putting £24,000 into active play for the eight-to-13 age group.
- Giving an extra £100,000 in grant funding to the cash-strapped Hyndburn Leisure Trust.
- Arranging a programme of events to mark the 150th anniversary of Accrington Town Hall, including a late-night shopping weekend and a Victorian-themed evening.
The budget was being discussed at a full meeting of Hyndburn Council last night and a full report of the debate, including opposition reaction, will be included in next week’s paper.