by neildarby on 8 April, 2013
“It’s very sad to have to say this, but I believe Preston City Council is not sustainable as an independent authority in the long term. In the ten years I have been a Councillor, the number of employees has reduced by well over half, and we cannot sustain any more cuts without front line services – like emptying the bins – starting to suffer.
The only way to protect the front line is to reduce the size of the non-customer-facing departments, the back offices – and the only way we can do that is by merging with one or more of our neighbouring authorities, unitary, district and county. Given that would be a lengthy process, in the short to medium term, we should set up joint or partner organisations with neighbouring authorities, to carry out such functions as Computers, Personnel, legal services, accountancy and the like, on behalf of those authorities. If that proved impossible, we should negotiate with other authorities for them to provide some or all of the overhead services to us.
Merging with the neighbours need not mean losing our identity – we’ll still celebrate Guild in twenty years’ time – but nor must it be thought to involve us taking them over into a ‘Greater Preston’ either. But if we are to continue to run a city of which we can be proud, a city with a superb museum, a new market in refurbished Victorian surroundings, half a dozen of the best urban parks anywhere, two popular leisure centres and all the other non-statutory things that make life in Preston worthwhile – then we have to reduce our overheads, which means reducing the number of councillors probably by two-thirds, and reducing the non-front-line staff.
So in a way it’s the end of the road for Preston City Council. But there is a new way ahead for local government in the city, if only we have the necessary courage.”
Councillor Bill Shannon is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Preston City Council and City Councillor for Ingol Ward in Preston West.1 Comment