Today, the Derbyshire Conservative Group slammed the controlling Labour administration for being out of touch with the public and running down the County’s General Reserve. By 2020 the General Reserve is projected to be just 2.7% of the county’s revenue, a worryingly low figure that makes the authority vulnerable to running out of cash to manage unexpected pressures on its budget. The buffer to the county’s finances as it grapples with the savings it needs to make, known as the Risk Management Budget is to be reduced to zero in the next two years further compounding the pressure on the County’s finances.
Shadow Cabinet member for Council Services, Cllr Stuart Ellis said,
“We live in an increasingly uncertain world, where things like another economic downturn could have unexpected consequences like impacting upon our projected business rate income. Something like this might go hand-in-hand with a rise in the numbers of looked after children, as it did in the last recession, which would see us spending beyond our means. It’s unsustainable to think that this level of reserves would see us through.
Deputy Leader Cllr Simon Spencer added,
“We left this administration with well over £200m in reserves in 2013, with around £140m of those in the General Reserve and even when you take out the approximately £50m that was in there to deal with issues like Equal Pay settlements, that left £90m. Since then we’ve seen Labour project after pet project requiring them to dip deeper into that pot whilst we careered towards this cliff-edge that we all knew would face us these next two years, whilst they dithered on the cuts they needed to make.”
“We are seeing Derby City Council facing potentially serious repercussions because of seemingly unallocated savings and this Council seems to be following their lead. One has to ask: is this all to make a political point?”
Some of the Labour projects since 2013 have included:
• Commissioning The Communications Company (Lambeth Borough Council company – one of the key players was a senior figure in the Labour Party).
• Member’s Casework System – commissioned from Nottingham City Council – widely believed to be a failure with elements replaced recently by ‘Report It Now’ to deal with Highways and County assets related enquiries.
• Funding the Chesterfield Unemployed Workers Centre – the organisation slammed by the press and public for the distasteful T-shirts celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher
• Innovations Team – about a million pounds for a team to 'save money'. Whilst cutting key services like Community Transport and Mobile libraries, which actually save the DCC money by combatting rural isolation.
Added to this they have recently extended the length of time that they repay debt charges on loans thereby, like paying the minimum on a credit card, which will cost the taxpayer more and impact on the authority’s ability to borrow money in the future. In another show of detachment from reality, at todays Cabinet Labour will approve a indoor soft play scheme costing £115,000, which during times of plenty might be a good thing to do but during austerity, and whilst howling about Government cuts it is perhaps not appropriate.
Cllr Barry Lewis, Leader of the Conservative Group said,
“Labour is out of touch with the public and unnecessarily scaremongering and threatening total collapse of key services, probably egged on by poor advice from their expensive communications advisors, to make political points. Each time they eventually and heroically pull a rabbit from the hat and in some way save the service. The public aren’t fooled by this behaviour anymore though”
“Now they have just their sort of Hard left Labour leader in Corbyn, they are reverting ever deeper into the 1970s, leaving the people of Derbyshire further behind and are completely out of touch.”