Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Labour calls for end to Cash Crisis at Thanet Council

Thanet Labour group press release

Speaking during the annual Council budget setting at Thanet District Council on Thursday, Cllr David Green, Labour’s Shadow Finance chief has called for an end to the seemingly perpetual budget crisis at the Council.

Cllr Green said, “Year after year, the Conservative administration at Thanet Council have imposed emergency financial sticking plasters, frustrating the efforts of staff who are trying to run decent services for the residents of Thanet. Measures such as delayed filling of vacancies, constant calls for redundancies, freezes on expenditure, and repeated reorganisation of senior staff, can be tolerated as emergency measures, but when they persist from year to year, eventually staff begin to leave and morale drops”.

Cllr Green’s speech contained a summary of the huge growth in the Council’s budget whilst the Conservatives have been in office in Thanet.

Between 2004/5 and the current year, the Conservatives have benefitted from a £3m (34%) increase in support grant from the Labour Government, numerous other grants amounting to £7m per year, and have imposed a 29% increase in Council Tax and 6% increase in fees and charges on the people of Thanet.

In accusing the Conservative administration of failing to get to grips with the financial crisis, Cllr Green queried why there was such a problem in producing a balanced budget from year to year, given the increases in funding. He asked:
“Why have the Conservatives had to raid the Council’s reserves, reducing them from 13.27 of net budget in 2004/5 to 9.3% this year and even lower next year?”
“Why are we cutting back even the modest aspirations of the Corporate Plan, agreed only last year?”
“Why are we cutting grants to the third sector, museums and town partnerships?”

Presenting Labour’s solution to the problem, Cllr Green pointed to the uncontrolled growth in the number of staff employed. “In 2004/5 the Council employed 577.34 full time equivalent staff at a cost of £15.8m. By this year you had allowed this to rise to 655.06 full time equivalent staff at a direct cost of £23.8m a year.”

Cllr Green pointed to the Council’s poor record of finding efficiency savings and the criticism in the last report from the Audit commission, saying “If the Conservatives had continued Labour’s value for money programs then the growth in staff numbers and gradings would be continuously kept in check. None of the current painful measures would have been necessary if prudent measures had been taken earlier”.

Cllr David Green
Shadow Finance Spokesperson
01843 591495

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