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Straw backs East Lancashire council merger to fight cuts threat
10:00pm Tuesday 7th January 2014 in East Lancashire
MP JACK Straw has revived controversial proposals to merge six East Lancashire councils into a single all-purpose authority after Chancellor George Osborne warned of billions of pounds more cuts.
The Blackburn MP said one unitary body covering Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale and Ribble Valley would achieve cost-cutting and protect services.
He is circulating a draft letter, addressed to Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, on the plan to East Lancashire politicians for comment. Last year, ministers opposed any further organisational change which would mean scrapping Lancashire County Council.
Ribble Valley Tory leader Stuart Hirst and Burnley Labour boss Julie Cooper both expressed dismay at the £25billion further cuts in council and welfare spending proposed by Mr Osborne and doubted whether a single East Lancashire council could work. Lancashire county finance boss David Borrow said: “Ordinary, hard-working people, and especially the elderly will be forced to bear the brunt of these cuts. A country as rich as ours should be able to look after the poor without relying on food banks.”
Mr Straw said: “Unitary authorities can do a better job at lower cost.
“The government has put this on ice but there is no reason why discussions cannot take place.”
Coun Hirst said he was ‘dismayed’ at Mr Osborne’s comments but Ribble Valley residents would oppose Mr Straw’s plan.
Hyndburn Labour MP Graham Jones supported Mr Straw but borough Tory leader Peter Britcliffe condemned the scheme.
Blackburn with Darwen council’s Labour leader Kate Hollern and her Tory counterpart Mike Lee support the idea.
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