Cabinet report outlines plans to transform services with fewer buildings needed

Friday, May 6, 2016

Lancashire county councillors are to consider plans to change the way frontline services are delivered and save millions of pounds by reducing the number of buildings the council owns and rents.

Lancashire County Council needs to save £200m by 2020/21 as a result of ongoing government cuts to its budget and rising demand for services.

As part of implementing savings agreed by Full Council in February 2016, a report to the council's cabinet proposes bringing services together to form a network of multi-functional buildings known as Neighbourhood Centres, which would provide a base for a range of different services in one place.

Meanwhile many buildings would no longer be used and the number of places at which some services are available would reduce.

Councillors are being asked to give the go-ahead for a 12-week consultation period, inviting comments and suggestions about the proposals, before taking a final decision later this year.

The report outlines plans to change where some services including libraries, children's services, children's centres, young people's centres, youth offending teams, older people's daytime support services, adult disability day services and registrars are delivered in the future.

The plans seek to ensure that people can still access the most popular services close to where they live. For example, most people, including those in rural areas, could access a Neighbourhood Centre with a library in it within 3 miles of where they live, while 95% of those who live in more densely populated areas would be within 2 miles of their nearest library service. The network of fixed library sites would be complemented by the council's six mobile library vehicles, the home library service, and the very popular virtual library service which provides e-books and an online reference service.

County Councillor Jenny Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "The severity of the county council's financial position cannot be overstated, and the ongoing cuts in central government funding combined with rising demand for our services mean the only way we can maintain the services that people rely on is to deliver them in a different way.

"I'm acutely aware that people have a very strong connection to their local services, particularly places like libraries which are often seen as a valuable part of the community.

"These proposals are very difficult ones for councillors to have to consider, but our aim is to come up with a solution that still gives everyone in Lancashire good access to good services, even though some will have to be further away than they are now.

"The fact we're considering as many as 238 buildings in this process reflects the way services have developed over several decades when the council had more money to spend. We really need to think about where services are most needed and how we can reduce the costs that come with running so many premises. Our reduced need for buildings also reflects that we've already had to significantly reduce the budget for many services.

"The Cabinet report reflects a lot of hard work to assess where services should be located, taking account of things such as geographic spread, the needs of different communities, and access issues such as public transport and car parking.

"Following the Cabinet meeting we intend to put these plans out to consultation and we'll be very keen for people to express their views and help shape the final proposals."

Subject to the Cabinet agreeing to proceed with a consultation process, this is due to begin on Wednesday 18 May for 12 weeks. Information will be made available online and at county council buildings throughout Lancashire.

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