A RAFT of savings to plug a £500,000 budget gap were passed through at a heated West Lancashire council meeting.
The Major Service Review went back before council last Wednesday following a public consultation on a string of cost-cutting decisions made in July.
But the Conservative-led council’s decision to go against officers recommendations to pull the plug on planned pay-and-display parking in Yeadon and Sandy Lane in Skem, and changes to the dog warden service that will see visits to schools to educate youngsters over the issue axed came under fire from Labour councillors. Instead of removing the pay-and-display proposals, Cllr David Westley put forward a motion to amend the proposals to allow a number of users to buy all-day monthly and annual permits.
The consultation process was also criticised, after only 42 residents and 13 stakeholders responded to an online survey. The cutbacks agreed include the closure of community centres and Ormskirk Civic Hall in 2014 unless they can be transferred to user ownership – though the running of centres in Tanhouse, Birch Green, Digmoor and Green Hill – will now be offered initially to management committees.
Community chest funding will also be reduced and eight jobs may also be declared at risk within the cutbacks.
Cllr David Westley, portfolio holder for resources and transformation, said: “Concerns were raised over the proposal to introduce parking charges in Skelmersdale and we were happy to listen and amend our original proposal as a result. “The council has faced some tough choices and we believe the package of savings that has been agreed will minimise the effect on residents.”
But Cllr Liz Savage said the Labour group would have tried to save the community centres through funding from alternative sources such as community partnerships, and criticised the Skelmersdale parking plans, saying they would result in a lack of footfall to shops in the area, resulting in lack of council tax business payments from the “inevitable closure” of some businesses. Regarding the lack of consultation responses, she said: “We need to be truly engaging with the public to find out their views, not just hoping that they may respond to an online survey.”
She also said that the removal of the education programme in the dog warden scheme would likely lead to increased dog fouling. But this was countered by Conservatives who said changes would lead to increased dog and litter patrols. And Cllr Adrian Owens said instead of simply criticising the council’s cutbacks, Labour should come forward with suggestions of their own.