Economic growth and improved public spaces form part of Lancaster City Council's new budget
A boost to the district's economic growth has been promised by city councillors as part of the local authority's spending plan for 2017/18.
Among the Labour party’s proposals to be approved at Wednesday evening’s full council meeting at Morecambe Town Hall were a new team to tackle anti-social behaviour, improvements to Morecambe prom and Happy Mount Park, continued support for Heysham and Carnforth community pools and funding for public CCTV.
The new revenue budget also includes £500,000 to help boost economic growth and money for the next phase of the Salt Ayre Sports Centre revamp, as well as further improvements to Lancaster city centre under the Square Routes scheme and to Morecambe town centre.
The separate housing budget includes £4million for improvements to council houses and new support for council tenants.
Council and Labour group leader, Coun Eileen Blamire, said: “Through careful use of our resources we are looking to tackle the scourge of anti-social behaviour, help to keep our district clean and safe and support economic regeneration and employment.”
However, Green and Conservative councillors had criticised some of the proposals, which include cuts to street cleaning.
A city council spokesman said the changes would “modernise” working practice to deliver “a more efficient service 365 days a year”.
“We expect to be able to deliver at least the same level of service we do now but in a more visible, flexible and responsive way,” the spokesman said.
A Conservative alternative proposal which they said would “bring service delivery into the 21st century” was largely shot down by Labour and Green councillors, who criticised them for bringing such a large plan to the meeting at such short notice.
The Conservatives’ intention, they said, was to make £15million in savings through streamlining the council and slashing the number of both council staff and councillors.
Coun Peter Williamson said: “Our balanced budget proposals ensure that no frontline services can be cut and we can still find enough savings to pass on a tax freeze to every Council Tax payer.”
Coun Susan Sykes said: “All councils are under pressure. Cuts are here to stay and this council needs to accept that.
“Our proposals are exciting and dynamic and can be provided at no extra cost to the tax payer. This offers us a new chance to reshape our council into a more efficient council.”
The group’s plans to “offload” the city council’s 3,000 council houses to a private firm were not popular among rival parties, however.
Labour councillor Janice Hanson said: “This is privatisation through the front door.”
Fellow Labour councillor Darren Clifford said: “Walking away from our social responsibility is not a viable argument to make. This would solve nothing in our community.”
Coun John Reynolds added: “I was told recently that the Conservatives don’t care about people who are suffering, but it’s not that, they just don’t get it.
“They will never understand the security of a council house, or ever appreciate its value to families across our district.”
And Green councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox said: “Council housing is one of the jewels in the crown of the city council.”
A bid by Green councillors to force a Labour rethink on cuts to street cleaning was not upheld, although amendments were made to the Labour proposals which meant Marsh community centre would receive a further year’s funding, while Hornby swimming pool will be maintained following its closure later this month in order for villagers to put together a business plan to take it over themselves.