Thursday, 26 July 2007

Lib Dem challenge to Labour Council

Posted by Chris:

In view of the adverse publicity in the Evening Gazette and the damage it may have done to the reputation of this Council and its professional officers, Glyn Nightingale and I have written to the Director of Finance and Procurement and the District Auditor to request that a Section 151 report is produced as a matter of urgency and presented to a special meeting of the Council.

The report should outline the current financial pressures, explain the allegations of financial mismanagement made by the Council Leader and set out the details of what exactly the alleged £12m “black hole” amounts to as reported in the Evening Gazette.

I am concerned that in one day the reputation of the Council and its professional officers, so patiently built back up over the past seven years, since the days when it produced the second highest Council Tax in the land, has been destroyed. The silly allegations and misrepresentations made by Leader of the Council simply will not stand up to scrutiny and it is vital that members are provided with the real facts.

On Friday 20 July we heard from the Redcar and Cleveland Council leader, that his administration have “a £12m black hole.” By Tuesday 24 July we read in the same paper that a proper Budget for 2007-8 is in place, the previous one had balanced with cash to spare going into reserves and the cash crisis was actually in the future.

Clearly they got elected, by the narrowest of margins, making promises to cut Council Tax and have found that their own Government, with its enforced economies and unfair allocation of grants, have made this impossible, so they invent a cash crisis as a way to deflect the blame when they put the Council Tax up.

It has clearly backfired on them, hence the rapid back peddling in the Gazette on Tuesday. They obviously didn't realise the effect it would have on the reputation of not just the politicians but also on the Council's professional staff who advise them, allowing the nasty smearmongers free rein. The Liberal Democrats election warning that Labour cannot be trusted has been confirmed within weeks of the election.

The amazing thing about all this is that £5m of the £12m is the cost of implementing Labour's over the top election promises and nothing at all to do with the Coalition and the past four years. This year the Labour Government gave £7.1m less than justified by its own assessment of needs. Next year Government financial stringency is likely to put even more pressure on Council finances.

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