DERBYSHIRE: Pickles refuses to meet council chiefs

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A leading Government minister has refused to meet with council chiefs to discuss budget cuts.

Derbyshire County Council leader Cllr Anne Western wrote to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles to request an urgent meeting after it emerged the authority faces a further £30m of cuts on top of a hefty £127m reduction already scheduled over the next five years.

Her call was backed by five other council leaders in Derbyshire.

However, Mr Pickles has snubbed the request and instead suggested the councils put their worries in writing as part of a wider consultation.

Cllr Western said: “All we’re asking for is a fair deal for the people of Derbyshire and requested a meeting with Mr Pickles to explain the devastating impact these cuts will have on people living across the county.

“Turning down the request of six Derbyshire councils for a face-to-face meeting to discuss our concerns is both disappointing and frustrating.

“We simply cannot keep taking hit after hit. To say these latest cuts are a step too far is an understatement and it is unavoidable our services which residents rely on will face cuts.”

“Mr Pickles needs to understand that families are in desperate need and are hurting – you only have to look at the rising number of people forced to use food banks.

However, Cllr Andrew Lewer, leader of the Conservative group at the county council, accused Cllr Western of a “party political electioneering ploy”.

He said: “There are clear and effective channels through which local Government can influence and challenge ministers on issues like this.

“Cllr Western and her colleagues knew they were destined to fail but the headline was all that mattered to them.”