West Lancashire council agree raft of cost-cutting savings which puts future of community centres and Ormskirk Civic Hall in doubt
COMMUNITY centres and Ormskirk Civic Hall will close in 2014 unless they can be transferred to user ownership as part of a raft of cost-cutting measures agreed by West Lancs council.
A hitlist of 23 options in the Major Service Review went before councillors as the council seek to fill a £600,000 budget gap. With the decision to close Skelmersdale Sports Centre finalised, the council is now set to launch a public consultation over the measures identified to find the remaining £500,000 of savings needed.
Part of that will involve discussing the planned transfer to community groups of the civic hall, Ashurst meeting room and the community centres at Tanhouse, Birch Green, Digmoor and Green Hill. Twelve jobs are also in the firing line.
Council leader Cllr Ian Grant said it was “a real opportunity for the user groups to come together to run the premises for their community” and would allow them to tap into funds only available to such groups. But drama groups who use the civic hall said there was real concern it would not be practical and would lead to the “devasting” closure of the hall.
Liz Wainwright, of Ormskirk Pleasure Folk, said: “It could be the end of us, it would leave us nowhere to perform. The idea of community ownership is great but the problem is the ideal people are already the ones heavily involved in the groups who wouldn’t have the time to commit.”
Meanwhile, a petition of 163 names has already been collected against the proposals for the community centres. Brian Nicoll, 77, collected signatures from users of the Green Hill centre.
He said: “We would have nothing. The council should be looking out for us and we want to show them the strength of feeling.”
Other measures agreed by the council include:
Extending pay-and-display to council-owned car parks at Yeadon and Sandy Lane in Skelmersdale.
Reducing grants to parish councils and community chest funding available for grants
Efficiency savings from audit fees, human resources and payroll and plumbing services.
Cllr David Westley said the council had tried to minimise the effect on residents while maximising opportunities to reduce spending and increase income.
He said: “We considered a range of policy options. I hope local people and organisations will take the opportunity to look at the proposals and give their views.”
But Labour leader Cllr John Fillis hit out at the proposals, claiming the decision to remove Burscough from initial pay-and-display proposals but leave Skem in was “politically-motivated”.
He said Labour would not have introduced parking charges and vowed to campaign to save the community centres. Citing the citizen survey, which showed people wanted to retain leisure and sports facilities, he said the review showed the council’s “lack of ambition and contempt for consultation.”