Castle Museum safe but libraries could be under threat in budget cuts

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Clitheroe’s much prized Castle Museum will not be affected by savage budget cuts at cash strapped Lancashire County Council.

That was the good news delivered this week as it was announced that the county council’s cabinet approved plans to save £65M over the next two years as part of action to tackle a £262M funding gap by April, 2020.

Eleven museums were under scrutiny and it was announced this week that five across Lancashire will have their funding cut but the Castle Museum is not one of them.

News that the popular museum, which was given a £3.5 million refurbishment and re-development in 2009, was under scrutiny, came as a blow to the town. So news that it will not be affected will be welcome in the town.

A further £7 million will be saved by reducing the county’s libraries from 74 to 34.

No further announcment has been made regarding which may close but a consultation process is expected to begin with library users in the New Year as some in the Ribble Valley may be affected.

Other cuts approved include removing funding for all subsidised bus services which will save £7.5M a year, removing the subsidy for discretionary denominational transport and reduction of the highways budget by £2.8M.

The plans will result in the loss of the equivalent of an estimated 367 full-time jobs, in addition to the 1,100 staff who have already left the authority since January 2014 on voluntary redundancy.

At the same time the council will be continuing work on delivering the remaining savings identified last year, adding up to a further saving of almost £148m over the period 2015/16 to 2017/18 and a further reduction of more than 500 full-time equivalent posts.

The decisions follow the announcement in August that the council needs to save an additional £262m by April 2020, to tackle a funding gap caused by reduced government funding and rising demand for services.

The savings come on top of £152m savings announced in the three-year budget agreed in February this year.

The additional savings mean that between 2011 and 2020 the council will have to have deliver savings of £685m.

County Councillor Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “The decisions we have taken today are heartbreaking but reflect the unprecedented financial situation we face.

“I didn’t come into politics to cut services but years of relentless central government cuts combined with a rising demand for our services mean we have to find huge savings.

“Even with these measures we still face a funding gap of nearly £200m by 2020.’’