PLANS to slash Bury Council’s budget by an additional £8.7 million over the next two years will have a “devastating impact on frontline services” and the people of the borough, the Conservative group leader has warned.
Cllr Iain Gartside has accused the ruling Labour group of incompetency by having to “impose” a second emergency budget this year to try to balance the books.
Meanwhile, the leader of Bury’s Liberal Democrats, Cllr Tim Pickstone says: “We all know that savings need to be made across the public sector at this time of unprecedented economic challenge, but Bury’s Labour council has simply got its priorities wrong.”
The angry reaction from the opposition groups comes after last week’s announcement that due primarily to a range of Government initiatives and cuts, Bury Council needs to save an extra £8.7 million during 2013-14 and 2014-15. This is on top of the combined £9.8 million in budget cuts already identified over the same period.
The authority has been forced to revise its Plan for Change document, outlining a number of new proposed cost-cutting measures to achieve the savings. The document is now the subject of consultation until January 10.
Cllr Gartside said: “The revised Plan for Change document includes new, shocking proposals that include reducing children centre funding by £250,000, slashing highways and parks maintenance and drastically reducing home to school transport for children with special educational needs and pupils who attend faith schools.
“Bury Conservatives also oppose the attack on parking charges by reversing our initiative of allowing free parking in Bury. In this year’s budget, we proposed to increase free parking from 15 minutes to half an hour. Labour are now going to remove all free parking in the town centre.
“Finally, we feel this Labour administration has been given plenty of advance notice of the changes in local government finance and they are failing to manage the council’s budget in a competent manner. Bury Conservatives will ensure that the council taxpayer of Bury does not pay the price of Labour’s budgetary shambles.”
Cllr Pickstone said: “Despite the fact that the numbers of older people in Bury are increasing year by year, the council is proposing that the biggest cuts are to support to vulnerable people — now around £4 million of cruel cuts.
“Local people deserve a good basic level of service from the council, yet the council proposes further cuts to our libraries and to our already crumbling roads maintenance services.
“The loss of the popular park rangers service puts in danger many local community events. We have been proposing that the first savings should be made by running services more efficiently, including looking at how we can run some services jointly with other local councils. Instead, Bury’s Labour council seems insistent on cruel cuts to frontline support and frontline services.”
In the revised document, executive member for finance and resources Cllr Tony Isherwood said: “The council is facing unprecedented financial pressures which are coming at us from a whole range of different angles and the position has worsened significantly since the original programme of savings was launched 12 months ago.”