Lancashire

Blackpool victim of social ills: Council boss Blackburn

Blackpool has become a "refuge for the dispossessed", the leader of the town's council has claimed in an open letter.

Simon Blackburn said: "I can't stand by and let Blackpool be seen as... a hapless victim of society's ills."

"How much longer can we run around after people fixing their problems because we are frightened that nobody else will do it?"

But Jim Cullen, of charity Homeless in Blackpool, responded: "What are we supposed to do?"

The Labour councillor's comments to residents in the Lancashire resort have won cross-party support.

'Criminal records'

The council leader said two events - watching an episode of Channel Four series 999: What's Your Emergency about Blackpool and having to use public transport more because his car was off the road - had brought him to the same conclusion.

He said: "I am forced to wonder therefore, at what point we accepted that Blackpool was going to become a refuge for the dispossessed and the never-possessed?

"When did we simply accept that if people turned up here with both profound and enduring criminal records, major social problems, housing issues or poverty issues, we would scoop them up into our bosom and seek to fix them?"

Mr Blackburn added: "It becomes an issue though when we are fuelling a culture of dependency on the state, a dependency we are struggling to afford now, never mind in another 10 years' time.

Blackpool generic
Blackpool's population has not gone up in the past decade

"How much longer can we run around after people fixing their problems because we are frightened that nobody else will do it?"

Mr Blackburn said the resort's population had not changed numerically in the past 10 years but unemployment had grown, public health had deteriorated, poverty was up and there was "little improvement in alcohol and drug-fuelled violent disorder and anti-social behaviour".

He said the council could soon be saying "Blackpool is full" and advising that if people wanted to move there they needed to think, would they have a job, a home to go to and "means of entertaining themselves which do not negatively impact on the wider community"?

Mr Blackburn also said Blackpool's fortunes could be turned around and made a plea to residents to join his mission to restore civic pride.

'We need entrepreneurs'

The leader of the council's Conservative opposition Tony Williams praised the letter saying: "It could have been written by a Conservative."

He said all parties had to work together to revitalise the resort, adding: "You cannot base an economy on tourism - we need entrepreneurs."

Mr Cullen, chief executive of Caritas Care North West, which incorporates Homeless in Blackpool, said he was surprised at the council leader's comments.

He added: "Are we supposed to leave people in need?"

Mr Cullen said his charity helped vulnerable people with problems rebuild their lives with a 15-bed residential hostel on the Grange Park estate. The charity also helps to provide food for a soup kitchen in the south of the town.

He added Mr Blackburn's comments saying Blackpool was full sounded "arrogant".

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