Lancashire

Lancashire County Council approves £179m cuts

Protesters outside Lancashire County Council's headquarters
Protesters are angry at proposals to cut children's and elderly services

Lancashire County Council has approved its budget for the next three years, including a package of £179m of cuts, at a cabinet meeting in Preston.

The Conservative-run council met at County Hall to finalise cuts to services and reveal the impact on jobs.

At one point the public gallery had to be cleared because of noise from protesters, and the meeting was further delayed because of a fire alarm.

The annual £803m budget is to be cut by £33m next year and £146m over 2012/14.

The council said it still had to decide exactly how it will go about making the cuts.

But it has agreed to spend £133m less on management and administration over the next three years.

The GMB union has said that up to 6,000 jobs are under threat, but the council has disputed the figure.

Council leader Geoff Driver said frontline services would be protected as much as possible.

He said: "There is no getting away from the fact that we have had to make some tough decisions in making these savings but it has given us an opportunity to look at how we can reshape some of our services without compromising the quality.

"The agreed budget today sets out a saving of £179.1m but some of the proposals are currently out to consultation and therefore exactly how we will go about shaping those services has still to be determined."

Phil Halsall, chief executive of the county council, said: "As we have said before, there is no doubt the workforce will be smaller in the future but we remain confident we can achieve this through voluntary redundancy and redeployment."

Many people protesting outside County Hall on Thursday were concerned over the future of eight respite care centres - one of which is expected to close.

One protester, Angela Murphy, said she was there to show strength of feeling about the centres.

She said: "Back in 2006, the county council wanted to close one of the respite units, Maplewood House, and my son attended it at the time.

"We fought a really hard campaign, it took a lot of courage and energy, we fought really hard to get them to keep it open, and they did, they listened.

"Here we are again, five years to the day almost, and that's the story again, families with disabled children have to struggle for everything."

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