Thursday, December 30, 2010

Old Post of mine from the Forum

This is what I wrote back in February 2009.

I've just received a copy of the summary of the Liberal Democrat run St Neots Town Council budget for 2009/10. This is my take on it. 

Bringing Grounds Maintenance in-house is costing the Council Tax payer an extra £90,000 a year! This is the main finding of my analysis of the Liberal Democrat run St Neots Town Council budget. 

Grounds Maintenance has also put a hole in the current budget with a not forecast cost increase of £57,000. This has led scrapping the Town Plan and the One Stop Shop in trying to keep this Town Council afloat. 

Whilst the Liberal Democrats seem to celebrating(?) a rise of only 5%, this has come at a cost to the Towns future. 

This has been achieved by cutting: 

  • The Capital Budget from £189k to £25k. This drastic cut will come back and bite this Town Council in the future. By cutting back a healthy capital programme the Town Council will need to increase CT in the future to reinstate these schemes. The Town Plan, One Stop Shop and Play Areas are £215,000 of capital expenditure on their own.
  • The essential Town Plan. Saved £60k. Not so essential now!
  • The One Stop Shop. Saved £50K. So the Town Council staff can still hide behind the closed window after HDC leave.
  • Play equipment promise scrapped. £40k supposed to be spent next year with an additional £55k the year after. Another Forward Plan promise gone!

So why has the Town Council had to make these cuts? Because the Eatons Community Centre is eating up so much cash and grounds maintenance, despite detailed reports, has come in a far more than budgeted! Looking at this mess no wonder the Town Clerk left! 

Under the General Budget headings the main increases/decreases between 2008/09 and 2009/10 are: 

  • Central/CRM/DRM down by £32,000. This is due to not replacing the Town Clerk for 6 months into 2009/10. This is a gamble that they can get away with not having a new Town Clerk in the future and promoting the Deputy and deleting that post.
  • Income is down by £32,500. This is due to the loss of interest from reserves which are being spent on the Eatons Community Centre.
  • Depot Operations/Play Area’s/Open Spaces/Cemetery & Churchyard is up by £90,000. This rise has everything to do with bringing the contracts in-house.
  • Promotions has gone up by £22,000. This largely went up in 2007/08 but wasn’t budgeted for in 2008/09. Another cause of budgetary problems.
  • Town Promotion has gone up by £18,000. This largely went up in 2007/08 but wasn’t budgeted for in 2008/09. Again, under budgeting causing problems!
  • An extra £25,000 is to be used as start up money for the EEC. Good idea to include this item.
  • Priory Centre cut by £26,000. There is a £10k cut in staffing but an increase of £16,000 in income? This is odd because the TC is looking at £107k income for 2008/09 but has increased this by £16k to £123k. Economic recession?
This has been financed by cutting capital back from £189,000 to £25,000 = £164,000. 

The result of this mess is: 

  • The essential Town Plan scrapped. Saving £60,000. Not so essential now!
  • The One Stop Shop scrapped. Saving £50,000.
  • Upgrade of play areas scrapped. Saving £95,000
  • Town Wardens scrapped. Cost not indicated.
  • New Cemetery? How is the Town Council ever going to afford this?
  • Town Lottery. That idea has been scrapped. Saving: £10,000.
  • Love’s Farm Community Centre. Extra money needed for this project. Where is this money coming from?
  • Eynesbury Community Centre. Extra money needed for this project. Where is this money coming from?
  • Town Open Air Swimming Pool. If the land is sold, where is the trust going find free land from to build the new pool?
My conclusion is this budget is a bad budget because it is a very short term budget to try get out of the problems caused by bad budgeting in the recent past. All this budget is doing is storing up problems for the future instead of tackling the actual problems now and getting the Town Council on the right financial footing to face the future. 
The Forward Plan is a good plan as it sets out a series of objectives which this Town Council could achieve. What it lacked was the financial foresight needed to make the Town Plan achievable. All this Liberal Democrat run Town Council is doing is desperately treading water waiting for the cash bonanza of 2011 when the new areas are annexed into the SNTC area. By not tackling the problems now this will mean when 2011 actually gets here the cash bonanza will spent on the stored up projects rather than progressing St Neots forward!

I was a little early on the 2011 date. The area were annexed in 2010. Otherwise I feel much has come out the way I thought it would.

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