Row over cutbacks and reserves

Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Borough Council
Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Borough Council

Wyre Council leader Peter Gibson has challenged Lancashire County Council to provide details of its cash reserves in light of the large-scale cuts in services it has agreed on.

Coun Gibson is demanding to know what Lancashire’s reserves currently stand at, as the sum amounted to £280 million in March last year.

The Conservative councillor says he will consider going to the Ombusdman if he does not get a response from County Hall, after putting in a Freedom of Information request and getting no response from Labour-led Lancashire.

Coun Gibson’s request comes after County Hall put forward a raft of tough cutbacks in services as it looks to make an extra £262m savings in the next five years, as a result of government cuts in funding, rising costs and increased demand for services.

Coun Gibson says County Hall has not prioritised on its spending.

He is now questioning why the authority needs to make cuts to Fleetwood Museum, the Knott End Ferry, the tram service and other facilities when it appears to have such a huge amount in reserves.

But he was blasted by Fleetwood’s County Councillor Lorraine Beavers who accused Coun Gibson of trying to blame the cuts on Lancashire, when it was the Conservative Government’s own savage cutbacks to blame in the first place.

And she said the reserves were needed to cover the huge saving needed, which would leave County Hall bankrupt if it wasn’t for the vital reserves.

Coun Gibson said: “When you make a Freedom of Information request, you are supposed to get a response within 20 days, but that has not happened.

“I have told them I am now making an official complaints, before I consider going to the Obudsman.

“I don’t want to go over the top about it and have given them until next week, but it is a serious question.

“The amounts of money the council needs to spend on things like the trams, the museum, the ferry and even NowCards is a drop in the ocean compared to these huge reserves they are sitting on.

“When the County Council first made its announcements about what services were being cut, it made absolutely no mention about these reserves.”

Coun Beavers said: “The cutbacks which are coming next are massive and we will need the reservses just to cover the costs of vital services. Coun Gibson knows this but is trying to making political capital out of a serious situation.

“The Fleetwood councillors will be fighting tooth and nail to save what services in Fleetwood we can, but Peter Gibsion is doing nothing practical to try and help safetguard services in Fleetwood.”

Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire Councty Council, said: “The reason for the time taken to get back to Councillor Gibson is that we wanted to ensure the figures were up to date and correct.

“He is now being provided with those figures.

“The cutbacks effecting this council are very extensive and the reserves will be vital for us to deal with that.”