Families in Hyndburn were this week hit with a triple whammy of cuts as the Government’s belt-tightening begins to bite.
Policing, jobs, housing and schools all look set to be hit following a series of announcements revealing:
- All of the borough’s 73 serving PCSOs could lose their jobs as police look to plug a £50m funding black hole.
- The multi-million pound Elevate programme – responsible for renovating the borough’s council homes – is to be scrapped from next year.
- Children at faith schools are to be charged £2-a-day for their travel to and from school after county council subsidies were withdrawn.
- Supermarket giants Tesco has slashed 250 previously announced posts at its brand new soon-to-open superstore in the centre of Accrington.
The announcements over public cuts have led to claims that the borough is set to shoulder an ‘unfair’ share of the pain after Chancellor George Osborne wielded the axe on the country’s £110 bn deficit.
Councillor Miles Parkinson, the leader of the Labour opposition group on Hyndburn council, said it would be a very difficult time.
He said: "These are going to be extremely painful times, not just for the public sector, but the private sector.
"It’s going to be extremely unfair for Hyndburn. Welfare and social services and all the other spending commitments are geared to those more deprived areas."
But the council’s Conservative leader, Peter Britcliffe, blamed the cuts on the previous Labour government. He said: "We all knew there was going to be an end to the Elevate programme, however, after meeting with ministers I’ve been informed that it’s not the end of housing money for places like Hyndburn.
"We will actually have more autonomy as a council in how it is spent. Nobody pretends we’re going to get the same amount of money, but there will still be money for housing."
Despite plans to scrap Elevate next year, Coun Britcliffe said that by April next year plans to build 82 new homes and refurbish 715 others would be completed. He said that it was hoped that around another 300 new homes would be created over the next ten years and said private investors are already in place to fund it.
Coun Britcliffe added that £7.45m in funding for the rest of the year is secure. He added that he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ that Tesco had not delivered the 450 jobs pledged.
Plans to charge high school pupils £2 per day for buses to and from denominational schools were rubber stamped on Tuesday by the county council.
The charges will come into effect in September 2011 and will hit families living more than three miles from St Christopher’s CE High and Mount Carmel Catholic High.
Labour Lancashire County Coun Ciaran Wells said: "The plans are extremely unfair. While the council may save a few million, that is nothing compared to the lump sum for £380 parents will now have to find.
"If a child starts secondary school in 2011 that will mean the parents will have to pay a total of £1,500 over the years to bus that child in to school."
Conservative County Councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children and schools, said: "Councils faced with spiralling costs and budget reductions are increasingly having to look at these arrangements and a number of authorities have already either completely withdrawn support, or are asking for a contribution from parents."
Lancashire’s 427 PCSOs have been told their jobs might be cut on March 31. There are currently 73 serving Hyndburn, Blackburn, Darwen and Ribble Valley.
Constabulary bosses have an estimated £50m to find over four years, and have opened formal talks with the trade unions, allowing them to slash posts quickly if needed from next April. Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said the situation was ‘hugely regrettable’.
"This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but reflects the seriousness of the financial position surrounding the funding of PCSOs and the current lack of clarity," he said.
"This 90-day consultation notice does not mean that all our PCSOs are going to be made redundant or in fact lose their jobs."
The new Eagle Street Tesco store will open on November 22. When plans were submitted two years ago, 450 jobs were mooted, but only 191 new jobs have been filled.
Just one-third of these have gone to long-term unemployed Hyndburn residents.
A Tesco spokesman said: "These are the number of jobs we are creating initially and the numbers should increase once our store matures and trading increases.
"Despite us having to cut back on the predicted figures from a number of years ago this is still one of the largest job creations in the district."