THE council has withdrawn from Britain in Bloom because of funding cuts.

It can no longer afford to enter the national gardening competition for which it has won gold for 15 years in a row.

The local authority has blamed a decade of austerity which has stripped £100m from its budgets.

A council spokesman said: “We have reluctantly taken the decision to withdraw from this year’s regional and national ‘in bloom’ contest. While sponsorship from businesses played a significant role in funding In Bloom, this is no longer sufficient to meet the costs of taking part.

“But this does not mean that Bury will no longer bloom – we will continue to make our town centres attractive and will implement a scaled-back scheme without the usual special floral feature displays."

Last year, the borough clinched a Gold award in the Britain in Bloom North West Small City category for the 15th year in a row.

Meanwhile, Radcliffe clinched a Silver-Gilt award in the Best Large Town category for the fourth year running.

Councillors were shocked to hear the news at a scrutiny meeting in which town hall directors set out how they would make savings in their departments.

Cllr Stella Smith raised concerns about the impact on tourism if the event does not take place. She said: “We have always been told in the past that the plans are self-financed."

David Brown, interim director of operations, told the committee that there is no money in the reserves to pay for the event.

He said it was “a little odd” for a council to run an “in bloom” event which should be “community-led”.

Cllr Susan Southworth discovered that the money had dried up when she made enquires about funding on behalf of Friends of Burrs Country Park.

She asked whether there would be any further cuts affecting cuts. Responding, Mr Brown said: “A number of cuts have been made with grounds maintenance. We’re not looking for further cuts.”

A council spokesman added: “We thank our workforce and the many volunteers and businesses who help to make Bury bloom, and we will continue to support and encourage them to do so. We are also committed, within available resources, to maintaining the borough’s 12 Green Flag parks which benefit all of our townships.”