Blackpool Council’s Moral Deficit

The denizens of Blackpool were informed by their local paper this month that their Council is in serious debt, predicted to total £111.1m by the end of 2023/24; nearly £27million has been set aside in the meantime to help discharge this enormous sum. It has certainly been a tough couple of years, and English local authorities are not world renowned for their financial prudence. Yet that huge debt was increased last week by over £100k by Manchester County Court.

Back in 2018, the Lancashire Festival of Hope, an evangelistic endeavour supported by our chapel, was holding a series of meetings in the seaside town. Its main speaker, Franklin Graham, holds a biblical view of marriage, which evidently outraged the town’s civic leaders, who banned advertising and made things difficult. They were subsequently taken to court by the organisers. In the initial April 2021 ruling, Judge Evans criticised the Council’s decision to remove the event’s adverts. The Council effectively ‘took sides’ against local Christians which was “the antithesis of the manner in which a public authority should behave in a democracy”. The Council was said to have misrepresented Mr Graham’s beliefs as extremist, thereby falling foul of the Equality Act. It is a pity the town’s MPs have not been ordered to apologise, along with the Authority. £25,000 in damages and £84,000 in costs have been awarded. Financially, this hardly makes a difference to the town’s financial woes; it may just be the equivalent of a few days' interest. Yet had council chiefs concentrated on running their town or attempting to address the defects of their financial management, rather than bullying Christians and proving their woke credentials, they might have paid off their huge debts a little quicker.

Thank God we have judges and courtrooms unswayed by political fads and equality-posturing. Still, if I were a citizen of Blackpool, I might seek to remove the beach donkeys which currently occupy the townhall.