County Council leaders lobby MPs at Westminster

Lancashire County Council leader County Coun Jennifer Mein
Lancashire County Council leader County Coun Jennifer Mein
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A cross party delegation from Lancashire County Council travelled to Parliament today to spell out to county MPs the financial crisis looming at the council.

The Westminster meeting followed a vote at the last full county council meeting in October that an urgent meeting should be held with MPs “to gain their understanding of the financial reality of the County Council” and seek their support in lobbying the Government in a bid to secure additional cash.

After the meeting County Council leader Coun Jenny Mein said: “They understand the situation.”

She said a majority of the county’s MPs or their representatives had attended the meeting and had heeded the councillors’ pleas. She said there was cross party agreement that the MPs would now discuss how best to advance the county’s case for more funding.

Liberal Democrat group leader County Coun Bill Winlow and Tory Coun Alan Schofield completed the lobbying team.

County Coun Winlow said: “It was a worthwhile visit and worth talking to people, It was a very useful meeting and I feel the MPs really understood our situation much better at the end.”

Coun Mein had previously written to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, citing a recent report by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) that the council faced a multi million pound spending gap with its reserves set to run out by 2018/19 and an overall shortfall of £227m by 2020/21. PwC had predicted that the Government could be called in to run essential services if the council could no longer afford to do so.

She said: “I explained that we are seriously underfunded and we need more support.”

Coun Mein said the Minister has replied saying there was no extra money: “But if Lancashire County Council brought back to him extra efficiency proposals and radical ways of working he will be prepared to listen.”

Coun Mein said work had already begun to consider how local government, the county council and health services could work together to make savings but it was early days and such changes were a longer term goal.

The immediate concern remains the rising demand for and the cost of social care for both adults and children. Lancashire County Council is one of many councils lobbying central government on this issue.