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Evil Sid

council budget

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Two 'difficult decisions' the council won't be taking in the face of central government cuts:

 

Occupy cheaper offices for its staff on less valuable land

 

Stop pouring unaccounted millions into the gaping maw of LiveWire

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WBC’s budget for next year is a masterpiece in avoiding transparency.

 

Looking first at the descriptive text covering the revenue spending we see that £8.8 million savings in the budget are proposed, taking the Spending Cash limits from 133.890 million to 136.349 million, that is actually a growth in spending of £2.459 million!

 

The Annual Accounts for 2015/16 show that the Non-School Earmarked Reserves were £38.5 m at 31 Mar 2016 but this year’s budget says they were only £29.5 m on the same date. Last year’s budget at this time last year forecast a figure of £18.7 m for 31 Mar 2016. It looks like there is a large float which goes out of the reserves and into the Social Services Budget each year and the residue only returns for the day the account are written. The result is that it looks like the council has significantly less reserves than is really the case and councillors may think they have to continue increasing the reserves each year. The budget this year shows that an extra 4 million went into the Time Square reserve. That is about the amount needed to pay the interest on the loans for the development before the cinema and shops are operating. That looks like £4m of cuts this year were caused by paying for the council’s new offices which are supposed to cost nothing, the money seems to get spent in 2019/20.

 

The budget document completely fails to tell us how much goes on each service. Figures that the council gives to the Government each year tell us that, leaving aside schools and public health services (both ring fenced), the council spends only 24% of the money for services for the benefit of the public at large. That is the reality of the slogan “protecting the most vulnerable”. The budget for services “for the many” this year was £26.4m, so less than the £30m cuts we are threatened with over the next 4 years. The funding is not being cut by this much according to the Government figures but WBC must need the money for some reason and just blames cuts because we have believed it so far.

 

It is way past time for proper transparency.

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Why does the story have the headline "Council tax to rise by 4.8 per cent as four year budget approved" 

 

but then on the first line it says: COUNCIL tax in Warrington is set to rise by 4.98 per cent"? which is actually nearer to 5% than 4.8%

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Lack of proof reading maybe?

 

eight and nine are next to each other on the keyboard and it could be just a case of accidentally hitting the two together whilst typing in the numbers.

 

Or it could be that 4.98 is the new 4.8.

 

Whatever the number it is UNDER five percent which is what is important when it comes to numbers put forward by the council.

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It's not just about transparency. This is the council actively misleading the public. As I said in an email to Russ Bowden, the very idea that the council has 'no budget' for its new offices is so ludicrous, I'm surprised he keeps saying it. It's not even a grown up lie. More the sort of denial you'd expect from a two year old. This budget confirms that this is not just one man being economical with the truth, but the entire council withholding inconvenient truths from voters. 

 

What is also interesting is the fact that councillors will issue threats to people highlighting their mendacity*. Issuing threats of libel to somebody who not only knows the libel laws but is also right on the facts? As a defence, that makes a change from a councillor saying people don't know the difference between revenue and capital, but it still doesn't wash. Although it would be entertaining watching the councillor in charge of the town's finances going to court to argue that nobody in the council has any idea how it is spending an eight figure sum.    

 

* Careful use of language. 

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While they may be short of a price for their new Town Hall, they've got a figure for the new station at Warrington West alright, according to the leaflet that came through the door the other day it's 'around' £18million and the station has 250 car parking spaces.

Now in 2013 I distinctly remember our council leader describing an 'all singing, all dancing' new station featuring all the trimmings and with 350 parking spaces, which marvel of the age was going to cost us £7million, what's all that about?

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While they may be short of a price for their new Town Hall....

 

It's not a Town Hall. They already have that. It's an office. The sort of office you could find on any business park and probably would if you weren't spending public money. Somewhere you could stick all your core functions but not on prime land, easier and cheaper for staff access and with a far cheaper, customer facing counter in the Town Centre for the diminishing number of people who cannot deal with the council online. Possibly that could be part of a redeveloped library hub. 

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I don't get why they need new offices either especially as they recently bought the ugly New Town House buildings that some of their offices are already housed in.  I seem to remember reading that they bought it to save money on rent...seems odd.

Must admit though that's one heck of an ugly building so maybe once they move out of there into their expensive Time Square new council building they will be looking (if they haven't already been looking) to sell the land and perhaps the building that the New Town grey concrete ugliness stands on.   Cockhedge centre could be extended or maybe the ugly building could pave the way for new development of expensive town house flats ?

Perhaps it all comes within their grand future plans as I noticed from some of Warrington & Co's more recent publications (which you really have to search hard to find ) that areas around Sankey Green Island for example are also earmarked for the councils bigger plans and development and looking at their proposals I can only assume that they intend to compulsory purchase and spit in the eyes of hard working well established current businesses around there.    Seems what the council wants the council gets no matter what........

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I don't get why they need new offices either especially as they recently bought the ugly New Town House buildings that some of their offices are already housed in. I seem to remember reading that they bought it to save money on rent...seems odd.

 

Must admit though that's one heck of an ugly building so maybe once they move out of there into their expensive Time Square new council building they will be looking (if they haven't already been looking) to sell the land and perhaps the building that the New Town grey concrete ugliness stands on. Cockhedge centre could be extended or maybe the ugly building could pave the way for new development of expensive town house flats ?

 

Perhaps it all comes within their grand future plans as I noticed from some of Warrington & Co's more recent publications (which you really have to search hard to find ) that areas around Sankey Green Island for example are also earmarked for the councils bigger plans and development and looking at their proposals I can only assume that they intend to compulsory purchase and spit in the eyes of hard working well established current businesses around there. Seems what the council wants the council gets no matter what........

Maybe not. Other councils have found you cannot just assume you'll be able to sell off or find another use for the buildings you vacate. It can be financially crippling to move to a shiny new office while maintaining an empty old one. In 2013, Newham council even considered moving out of its new offices and back into the old ones because it couldn't get rid of them and they had a better chance of renting out the new ones. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/deprived-newham-watches-bemused-as-council-ponders-move-from-110m-building-after-just-three-years-8836972.html

 

Of course, if this happens in Warrington, we'll only find out once the disaster unfolds. Then the council will just point fingers at Central Government while the people responsible for the offices and for covering up the cost and business plan will either keep their jobs or be allowed to walk away, while the people of the town pick up the pieces and the bill. 

 

The reason for the new office for WBC is not about what they need. It's all about self-aggrandisement. The one thing they always have money for.

 

Finally - always worth asking but what exactly does the scrutiny committee do? And what are they told? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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The council is confusing saying the word 'transparency' with being transparent. By the same logic, they could solve all their financial problems by simply declaring themselves rich. 

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I was in the civic offices of Chorley Council on Thursday, and I have to say, they make New Town House look like the Ritz.... WBC are just taking the mickey with these new offices

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Did you take any sneaky pics inside the Chorley Civic offices Baz for comparison :wink:

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