Sunday, November 29, 2009

SNTC 2008/09 Budget Explained

From the outset this looked a good budget to our Liberal Democrat Councillors. But it wasn't. In the report on the 2008/09 the Auditor found that there was little detail on how this budget was formulated. This meant this was a budget whose figures could not be relied on.

Whose fault is this? Well, the Deputy Town Clerk, at the time, has much to answer for. The former Town Clerk had the responsibility of supervision of the Deputy Town Clerk. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman (Cllrs Giles and Thorpe) of the Policy and Resources Committee were in charge of the budget process. [7] [9]

What was missing from this budget?

The Council decided to cancel most of the Grounds Maintenance contracts and start its own department. This is known as bringing the service in-house. Despite a detailed study that should have identified the costs involved these weren't included into the accounts. This totalled £95,000 in costs over a full year. As this was started during the year then roughly £55,000 that should have been added to this budget.

The Capital Receipt of £60,000 is a large problem. The reason why it is a problem is the amount against reserves. The inclusion of a £60,000 against a reserves of say £16 million is minimal risk to the budget if things go wrong. In the case of the Town Council the inclusion of a £60,000 Capital Receipt against balances of  virtually zero is a gamble and a gamble that didn't pay off.

This casino budget caused many problems for the Town Council. The inclusion of the extra £55,000 Ground Maintenance costs and the exclusion of £60,000 Capital Receipt would have given a budget of £874,873. This is up from £695,794. That would have been a £179,079 increase. That would have been a 25% increase in the precept or a 24% increase in the Towns portion of the Council Tax. This would have been politically unacceptable for the Liberal Democrats and would have outraged the Town.

So instead of a proper budget of £874,873 the Town Council passed a budget of £695,794. This caused many problems. During the financial year this underfunding led to the cancellation of many projects which should have gone ahead. From the cutting of the essential Town Plan to the Play Area Upgrades. This Town Council lost its way on a big gamble and lost. The gamblers were those in charge and time and again the former Liberal Democrat leadership of Cllrs Giles and Thorpe are those who gambled and lost. This is bad  government.

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