Monday, 9 May 2011

Outgoing Council leaves a financial mess

Over the weekend the Labour Group have become aware of the full financial horror story left by the outgoing Conservatives.

They racked up an incredible £5.2m worth of promises in just 12 weeks. That would mean Labour would have to increase Council Tax by over 50% to fulfil those obligations. This is set against deep successive cuts in each of the next 3 years and council debts of £10million.

Yesterday, new Labour leader Miles Parkinson took the easy decision to suspend and review all £5m of those grants, many of which were reckless election gimmicks.

The Tories had allocated £15k to drain a football pitch that hadn’t been played on in years because a sizeable piece in one half of the pitch had seen a multi-use games area built over it. At my advice surgery and on the doorstep, community activists told me they were encouraged by the council to turn up at the town hall, just say how much they wanted and they were granted it. There was no criteria and no application form.

The reality is twofold. The Tories knew they had lost so wanted to spend, spend and spend to leave nothing but empty promises Labour could not fulfil whilst winning votes.

One Labour voter in the key seat of Immanuel told me he was voting Tory because in their dying days, the council had promised to build a brand new pavilion at Immanuel CC.

Whilst housing is a key policy for Labour, there is to be a review of the £millions wasted under the previous administration. Under Labour, housing investment is unlikely to be cash handouts or benefit to private landlords as under the Tories. Schemes such as any in Woodnook must provide the council with a return.

I understand council officers will be presented with a number of much lower cost options involving both the public and private sector with whom talks began last month. The only sensible option now for the council is a full review of each application on a case by case basis with those seeking funding submitting detailed proposals.

The days of reckless Tory spending are over. Peter Britcliffe came in with broken promises, has presided over Hyndburn tumbling down the poverty league table and has now left with £2.6m of broken promises.