THE new year will bring new challenges and more cutbacks for Wigan Council after the Government dealt the authority a £20 million blow.

The borough’s budget for 2013/14 has been slashed by almost seven per cent after Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, announced the decision in Parliament. Lord Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council and a Leigh councillor, said: “This is a most unwanted Christmas present from Eric Pickles.

“Wigan Council, like many others, is being unfairly treated as money is taken from us in unprecedented amounts. Only because the council has carefully planned can we manage to deliver services people really need.

“Based on our initial examination of the figures, we believe the council has seen its grant from central government cut by £20 million over the two years in this period.

“The settlement is in line with our expectations.

“We forecast having to make savings of just under £19 million in 2013/14. This means we will only need to make marginal savings in 2014/15.

“Two years ago, when we became aware of the likely scale of the Government’s cuts, we took immediate action.

“But there is still a lot of hard work to do and further difficult decisions to make. We will be setting the budget this month and will finalise our further savings plans at that point.

“By the start of the next financial year in April, the council will have saved £46 million in two years, and by the end of 2014 we will have found savings of £66 million.

“We will have also absorbed £32 million caused by inflation pressure.

“We have already reduced ‘back office’ costs by 30 per cent and we have one of the smallest management teams in the region.

“We will continue to work hard to ensure the most vital frontline services are protected.”