Re­cy­cling row high­lights the ar­gu­ment for coun­cils merger

Rossendale Free Press - - The Rossendale Scribbler -

EARLIER this week, the new Tory ad­min­is­tra­tion at Lan­cashire county coun­cil re­vealed how it planned to deal with what is noth­ing short of a fi­nan­cial cri­sis at the author­ity.

The pre­vi­ous Labour bosses at County Hall were crit­i­cised time and again for the sav­ings which they had tried to push through by those who are now in charge at the author­ity.

But there’s no es­cap­ing the dire state of the county coun­cil’s fi­nances, the huge prob­lem it faces. The gap of more than £150m a year will ex­ist in 2021/2022 even after the £55m of sav­ings the Tories have iden­ti­fied.

There is some good news. As we know, li­braries are re-open­ing, and an ex­tra £1m has been found to sup­port bus ser­vices, plus more money for road re­pairs.

Yet there can be lit­tle doubt that un­less some­thing sig­nif­i­cant gives in the way LCC is funded, we will all feel the im­pact through diminished ser­vices in years to come. One of the pro­pos­als which has been on the ta­ble for a while, and which will be acted upon now, is the re­moval of grants handed to district coun­cils to sup­port re­cy­cling.

Rossendale gets around £500,000 a year to sup­port th­ese re­cy­cling col­lec­tions from LCC. The author­ity’s bud­get is around £9m a year. On top of the bud­get re­duc­tions Rossendale is also fac­ing from gov­ern­ment, this is a huge cut. LCC’s logic for scrap­ping the grant is based on noth­ing more than that it doesn’t have to pay them if it doesn’t want to.

Tory deputy leader Al­bert Atkin­son at County Hall told the me­dia last week that: “Many things have changed over the last 14 years, not least of which that district coun­cils now have a statu­tory duty to pro­vide re­cy­cling col­lec­tions.

“On this ba­sis, and with sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure on the county coun­cil’s fi­nances, we sim­ply can­not con­tinue to sub­sidise ser­vices that other coun­cils are al­ready duty-bound to pro­vide.”

In two sen­tences, he sums up the prob­lem with hav­ing two lev­els of coun­cil – district and county – serv­ing Lan­cashire. What LCC is ba­si­cally do­ing is pass­ing on the bur­den of cost­sav­ing to smaller author­i­ties.

In Bury, for ex­am­ple, this couldn’t hap­pen, be­cause Bury runs all ser­vices for its peo­ple. If it felt it could no longer sup­port re­cy­cling, it would have to front up to peo­ple it­self about it.

In­deed, many uni­tary coun­cils have put in plans for re­duced bin col­lec­tions, and maybe that is a fu­ture we have to get ready for.

But in just play­ing the ‘we don’t have to there­fore we won’t’ card, the Tories at County Hall are do­ing more than just sav­ing cash, they are ig­nor­ing the con­se­quences of their ac­tions.

New rules at the lo­cal tips – run by LCC – have al­ready made it more ex­pen­sive for peo­ple to dump cer­tain types of waste, prompt­ing fears more peo­ple will fly tip. It’s not a gi­ant leap to assume that prob­lem will get worse if our waste ser­vices take an­other hit in fund­ing.

But LCC’s de­ci­sion has also up­set many coun­cil­lors at district coun­cils across Lan­cashire. With the sav­ings needed in years to come, we re­quire good will and co-op­er­a­tion be­tween LCC and district coun­cils, not the shov­ing of cuts back and forth.

Once again, I find my­self think­ing what we re­ally need is for LCC to be scrapped and bor­ough coun­cils to merge to form Bury-sized author­i­ties which can re­spond more ef­fec­tively to the lo­cal needs of lo­cal peo­ple.

The Scrib­bler’s views do not nec­es­sar­ily rep­re­sent those of the Free Press. Let us know your views by email­ing freep­ress­news@ men­media.co.uk.

●● Lan­cashire county coun­cil is propos­ing to re­move grants given to district coun­cils to sup­port re­cy­cling

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