Great Britain

'Underwhelming' and 'unfair' - leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council slams budget announcement

The leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has slammed the Chancellor's budget calling it 'underwhelming' and 'unfair'.

Councillor Mohammed Khan responded to the Government’s budget announcement on Wednesday, saying more support was needed if the council were to be able to continue helping businesses and services affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "I am underwhelmed by the Chancellor’s budget.

"He has not recognised the vital role the public sector has played in responding to the pandemic nor the ongoing support our vulnerable people and communities need. 

"There is no mention of anything on social care or public health.

"Reforming how social care is funded continues to be urgent so it was disappointing that the Chancellor did not make any reference to it in his speech.

"A long term solution for social care is needed desperately.

"For the government to undermine council funding to such an extent that asking local authorities to increase the tax to continue paying for social services care is not fair.

"In addition increasing council tax raises different amounts of money in different part of the country, unrelated to need.

"Council tax rises are not a sustainable solution to funding adult social care and I would urge the government, once again, to prioritise solving it.

However, Cllr Khan said the extension of support for businesses and self-employed was welcomed, but said more help was needed to support businesses across the borough, especially in the hospitality sector and crucially in pubs, restaurants and cafes.

He added: "It was good to hear the prospectus for the levelling-up fund is to be published.

"We will be looking at the details with a view to applying for funding.  

"I hope this is new funding, and not just a repackaging of funding already announced.

"This week we set our own budget.

"The government had promised further investment in the guise of we will do whatever it takes.

"But what that actually meant was we had to raise the money ourselves through council tax.

"While we agreed a rise, we didn’t raise it by the full amount the government allowed us to."

A council tax rise is the last thing anyone in the borough wanted, and Cllr Khan acknowledged this by making reference to the current struggles faced due to the coronavirus crisis.

He continued: "But without the rise we would have no alternative but to make brutal cuts to services to set a balanced budget which we are legally required to do.

"Thanks to 10 years of funding reductions, our council has already faced huge cuts.

"But as part of the budget, we wanted to put further investment in our environmental services as residents always have that at the top of their lists in terms of priorities.

"Coronavirus has had a terrible impact on our lives.

"But I am proud of how the council has responded.

"We have kept essential services going, protected the most vulnerable and always fought for our communities.

"I will continue to fight for a fair settlement for the council and the borough.

"Despite the tough times, we as a council, we will continue delivering for our residents and businesses."

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