Council cuts: How are cutbacks impacting Lancashire?

County Hall Image copyright Alexander P Kapp
Image caption Lancashire County Council will have had £542m taken away between 2010 and 2018

Lancashire County Council is juggling two issues right now: Should it become a combined authority? And how can it cope with the £300m it has to save during the next four years?

The Labour-run authority spends just over £2bn each year - most of it on adult and children services - and employs more than 13,000 staff.

All told, between 2010 and 2018, the council will have had £542m taken away from it.

During this period the county council has actually been handed huge sums of money, notably £434m as part of the Preston City Deal, which has led to new roads and homes being built in and around Preston.

Senior staff in charge of key posts will be replaced by fewer managers, while a review of lower-graded jobs next year will affect more than 12,000 workers.

The authority has stopped short of closing any libraries, which can be vulnerable at a time of cuts, and has actually spent thousands of pounds to improve them.

In the wake of the Scottish Referendum earlier this year, the county council has already held a series of meetings to discuss becoming a combined authority - with all councils in Lancashire working more closely together.

That will not stop the cuts going ahead though.

Analysis: Arif Ansari, BBC North West political editor

Local government in the North West has been hit harder by spending cuts than any other region in England.

Ministers are trying to reduce the deficit and that means targeting the bigger budgets.

Larger city councils get the most cash to deal with the most pressing social problems.

Even if the local government budget had been frozen, council leaders would have been making savings due to rising costs, particularly adult social care. But, in fact, local government spending has been reduced more than any other department.

Labour accuses the government of punishing Northern councils at the expense of more affluent ones in the South. The government points out that they still get far more funding.

The best councils have responded by becoming much more collaborative, innovative and efficient. But undoubtedly some are struggling to cope.

So far it's estimated North West councils have had their budgets reduced by a third since the general election. And there's no sign the pressure is about to ease.

Burnley Council says it is facing its biggest ever challenge, with an expected financial gap of £2.3m to plug.

It is also going to withdraw funding for parish councils, with 18 staff losing their jobs as a result.

Burnley is looking for an organisation to take over the running of some services.

Many of the local councils in Lancashire are trying to deal with the cuts in a different way.

In Preston, the Labour council has had to hand over one of its iconic buildings to a local businessman. The Guild Hall was costing taxpayers £1m each year and, before its sale was secured, was facing closure in March 2015.

Pendle Council has become the first local authority in Lancashire to make do without a chief executive - two senior staff are filling the role instead.

The council's decision in 2012 to buy Brierfield Mill, built in 1834, could now lead the authority to press ahead with plans to redevelop it and build new homes and businesses.

It says it expects to have to make savings of £3m over the next three years.

The council is asking residents to come up with ideas to make savings and will consider them in January.

Wyre Council, run by the Conservatives, has been able to balance its budget but is now looking at bringing in more income by doing a deal to allow the local GP surgery to set up in the council's civic centre.

Chorley Council has already paid £23m to become the new owner of the Market Walk shopping mall. The council says the mall will play a vital role in developing a vibrant town centre. The council is also trying to become a unitary authority, which would mean they would take charge of all its local services.

Blackburn with Darwen Council says it has already saved £16m and is expecting to find further budget cuts of £19m in 2015 and 2016.

Since 2010, 1,100 staff have lost their jobs, and the bosses have not been immune - half of the senior managers have left.

Council leader Kate Hollern expects a further 300 jobs will go between now and 2018.

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