Monday, November 30, 2009

2009/10 Town Council Budget Explained

This budget was formulated (link to budget document) against the realisation of the problems caused by the 2008/09 casino budget.

In January 2009, the Liberal Democrat run Town Council had a massive problem. They weren't too sure how much money they had and were not sure of the whole financial situation. The Town Council Leadership (Cllr Giles and Cllr Thorpe) took a series of emergency measures. This left the Forward Plan, which the Town Council had passed less than 8 months earlier, in tatters.

So what did they dump?

Town Lottery (Saved £10,000 in 2008/09. Money transfered to a Traffic Scheme the County decided that wasn't important. The Town Council decided, without professional advice, that it was necessary.)
Play Areas Upgrade (Saved £40,000 in 2009/10. £55,000 in 2010/11)
New Cemetery (Saved £17,000 in 2009/10. Likely £29,000 from 2010/11 onwards)
Town Plan (Saved £30,000 in 2008/09. Money went to prop up the General Reserves. Saved £30,000 in 2009/10)
Town Wardens (No budget, so not happening)
Council Office Refurbishment/One Stop Shop (Saved £50,000 in 2009/10. £30,000 went to prop up the General Reserves. £20,000 to create a budget to fit out the Eatons Community Centre.)
Market Stalls (Saved £5,000 in 2008/09. Money transfered to fit out the Eatons Community Centre.)

By dumping all the above projects the Liberal Democrat leadership was able to prop up the 2008/09 Budget and have some money to put towards the fit out of the ECC which hadn't been budgeted for. This is partly why the Liberal Democrats were able to keep the rise to 5.05%.

In itself this was a major foul up by the Liberal Democrat leadership (Giles and Thorpe) and has gone pretty much un-noticed by residents.

So why did the Liberal Democrat leadership (Giles and Thorpe) get into this mess? Although they were Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee they seem to have little idea on what was happening with the finances. Below part of what the Policy and Resources Committee is for:

So what were the main problems that arose during 2008/09?

Ending the contracts for much of Grounds Maintenance and starting a new department cost this Town Council dear. During 2009/10 budget process this was predicted as an extra cost of £89,332 more than in 2008/09. This was despite the assurance this scheme had a detailed study.

The ECC was not properly funded and "mission creep" and other changes were not accounted for in the scheme. This led to a financial crisis which needed more money.

In the previous article I pointed out the Liberal Democrat leadership of Giles and Thorpe had understated the 2008/09 precept by £180,000. This casino budget caused problems for 2009/10.

After the January cuts in the 2008/09 casino budget the cuts continued into the 2009/10 budget process.

The £36k decrease in the Central Administration is because they only budgeted for a new Town Clerk for 6 months. So Giles and Thorpe had decided to under staff the Town Council for 6 months. If they employ another full-time Town Clerk with the same staff structure this will mean an increase for the 2010/11 budget of £36k.

The Other Costs/Income fall of £33k is to do with the loss of interest from the use of those reserves to pay for the ECC.

Because Grounds Maintenance was brought in-house this has added costs to the Depot and Operations section but has dropped the cost of both the Play Areas and Churchyard section. But this still represents an increase of £89,332 in costs over 2008/09.

The upping of the Promotions budget to £46k from £24k has much to do with the under budgeting in previous year.

The Town Promotion budget increased from £6k to £23k is to do with the inclusion of the xmas lights from the reserves budget.

The Priory Centre budget was cut by £26k which was a political decision.

The Capital Budget was a decrease from £188k to £48k meaning £140k reduction. Whilst this looks good cutting capital programmes will mean this will need to be reinstated in the future. To reinstate above £48k will mean tax increases.

The Town Council did put £25k aside for the running costs of the new ECC.

It should also be noted the 2009/10 budget left out Play Area Upgrades and Town Plan which saved another £70k. The leaving out of Play Area Upgrades will mean this will become a cost further down the line.

The 2009/10 budget was a slashing budget which the Liberal Democrat leadership of Giles and Thorpe used to rip up to tatters the Forward Plan and trash many of their programmes. The ECC carried on as the money pit. This budget has stored up problems for the future which can only be resolved by more tax rises. Of course the Liberal Democrats are hoping the 2011 annexation of parts of Eynesbury Hardwicke and St Neots Rural with all the extra housing will ease these budgetary problems.

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