LONG-RUNNING cutbacks to some of Barnsley’s ‘most visual’ front-line services will be partially reversed thanks to an unexpected cash windfall which will see almost £1m spent on tackling Barnsley residents’ most pressing issues.

The funding, which has come from the government, is an initial one-year commitment and will allow a significant £245,000 blitz on weeds and graffiti, an increase in 21 ward alliances’ budgets by £10,000 each to fund more localised improvements and a £40,000 tree-planting scheme across the borough.

Eight town centre warden posts will become available in order to support the area’s regeneration - whose work will be done alongside police officers and focus on eradicating antisocial behaviour - while an ‘environmental impact team’ will work to tackle problems such as untidy properties, negligent landlords and fly-tipping in yards related to houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).

A total of £918,351 will be allocated towards the schemes, which will all be delivered in the next 12 to 18 months, Wednesday’s cabinet meeting was told.

Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton told the Chronicle he has hopes that it could be repeated in the coming years, with potentially ‘more good news’ to come, but admitted the funding came as a surprise.

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“It’s funny as we’re not used to receiving money as we’ve been dealing with cuts for years,” he added. “We’re still plugging gaps, as are other councils, but we are one of a few who will be able to put something back into where it matters the most.

“Austerity isn’t over, it’s an ongoing issue, but this is a helpful boost and it’s one that’s the best settlement we’ve had in ten years. The improvement areas have also been formed by residents who have voiced their concerns at meetings and councillors’ surgeries, so we’re listening to what they want.

“A general election is on its way and we don’t know what the picture looks like beyond that, but the schemes identified also happen to be the service areas which have endured some of the hardest-hitting cutbacks in recent years.

“The ‘clean and green’ side of things, which includes things such as grass-cutting, weeding and graffiti, will receive the biggest portion of funding as it’s something that’s consistently brought up by residents.

“This also goes hand-in-hand with the town centre’s regeneration and the ‘Principal Towns’ project to boost key shopping areas across the borough - if everything’s tidy it creates a better impression and there’s no point in spending millions regenerating Barnsley if it’s not clean.

“We’ve had to make some difficult decisions and control our budget, so this speaks volumes about the council’s management. We’ve had to take the negative responses on the chin but every decision we’ve taken has been to stabilise the council’s finances.”

Since 2010, savings of an estimated £107m have been made, including £5.8m which will be made this financial year, while jobs across the council have also been cut by nearly 40 per cent as a knock-on effect.

While it has been the hardest-hit local authority in the country, the Local Government Association (LGA) recently praised its leadership and financial work during times of adversity.

Cabinet spokesman Coun Tim Cheetham added: “We’re in a better position that we expected and this will impact the day-to-day services the council delivers.

“Future work which had been identified will be able to be completed this financial year. Local authorities are often simply administrators and have no actual ability to be a local government, which is what they should be.

“This is no small thing as we’ll finally be in a position to spend on the things that matter the most to our residents.”