Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Should we take what Cllr Ablewhite says on face value?

In a recent article in the Hunts Post, Cllr Ablewhite, Council Leader, informs readers how in his reign HDC is saving money.

This is one of his musings:
“More and more over the years we have seen the council funding employment rather than volunteers. For example, 24 per cent of the money we give to the Citizens Advice Bureau goes into the local government pension scheme. So we need the voluntary organisations to make the efficiency savings that they can to save us money over the longer term.”
Hmm... Yes HDC is funding employees rather than volunteers. Yes they have a pension pot. But does his figures add up? Well no they don't. The accounts for Huntingdonshire Citizens Advice Bureau are here. They show that HDC granted HCAB £183,500. 24% of £183,250 = £43,980.

The total pension costs shown is £11,237 or 6% of the £183,250 granted by HDC. That is £32,743 short of the total. HDC;s current rate of pension contributions is at 20.4% for employees in the pension scheme. Even at that high rate £11,237 represents £55,083 pensionable earnings of £119,537 in HCAB wages. So not all employees are members of the pensions scheme.
If all wages and salaries are in the local government pension scheme (and they aren't) then the employees contribution would have to be 17.9%. Now these employees aren't getting large salaries so they can't pay this much in pension contributions. On the LGPS website the contributions are given and they average out at 6%.
So the employee contributions at 6% would be roughly £11,237.

So adding together what the employees pay and HCAB pays this adds up to £22,474. This is still £21,416 short of the £43,980 that Cllr Ablewhite says is the 24%.

The 24% figure is wrong. 24% doesn't go to the LGPS from HCAB even if employee contributions added in.

And another:
“As part of that process we have reviewed CCTV and can keep some of that.”
The Hunts Post goes onto explain...
"HDC is hoping to attract funding from town councils in Huntingdonshire where the coverage is concentrated,"
Yes all this means is the Town Council taxpayer gets charged for this instead of HDC. If HDC is going down the differential charging route then Town taxpayers should see a discount on rubbish collection because it is cost effective to deliver this service in a Town and very cost ineffective to deliver this service in rural locations. Will rural dwellers be paying more for their bins to be collected? No they won't!

And the Conservative cheerleader that is the Hunts Post also does its bit for misinformation with this:

A year ago residents were facing HDC having to cut more than 120 jobs, ditch its CCTV surveillance scheme, double parking charges and cut the opening hours of its call centre and leisure centres, and a reduction from £485,000 a year to just £85,000 in funding for charities, as it tried to deal with the large hole left in its budget by the coalition Government’s cuts.

Yet many of these cuts were envisioned before the Coalition cuts came in. HDC had a massive deficit problem and was running out of reserves. This is main reason behind the cuts. Yes, the Coalition added to this but HDC and their cheerleader the Hunts Post hide behind the false premise.

Also in the article is the following:
"And while the Council Tax precept was frozen in April, residents faced the prospect that it could rise by nearly 20 per cent in April 2012."
Only if there was a referendum!

The answer to the original question: "Should we take what Cllr Ablewhite says on face value?", the answer is NO. The 24% figure is wildly wrong and gives a totally false impression of where the funding goes.

What Cllr Ablewhite should be talking about is how the New Homes Bonus nicked from St Neots et al is currently propping up a failing budget. And the Hunts Post should be looking into the finances and why cuts are necessary rather than doing puff pieces as a cheerleader. It doesn't even look into why HDC's own accounts are late.

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