Derby City Council

No transparency over use of Council’s £2.2m saving. Why not in the public interest?

6X4A1698As I reported earlier this week the Council saved £2.2m in it’s Revenue Budget in 2015/16. This was confirmed in the Council Cabinet papers presented at the meeting on 13th July 2016 and was the subject of discussion during that meeting.

The debate on this subject was opened by Cllr Holmes – Conservative Leader, who represented the position of the public by stating ” front line services in my area have been cut, yet you now have £2m which you suddenly use for other things and those other things aren’t really defined…..that’s an issue that needs clarity”

Video of key contributions from the debate 

Martyn Marples, Chief Finance Officer confirmed that there was an underspend of £2.2m but he was clear that “they can’t be offset against permanent pressures that we have on an on-going basis”.  He goes on to say that it could be used for a number of things and ” you could ask the public, members, the Cabinet and you could spend it 23, 30, 40 times over” However he suggests spending the money on strategic issues.

In effect what Marples is saying is that the savings are “one-off”, they are not repeat, on-going savings (this was also stated by Paul Robinson, Chief Exec, in a private meeting with a member of the public) – hence his comment that they cannot be offset against permanent pressures.

In the Cabinet Meeting, Robinson makes a counter position by suggesting that the £2m has been saved “slightly ahead of the schedule” and is part of the plan to make permanent savings, against permanent pressures – this contradicts Marples’ position.

Cllr Graves, UKIP Leader, observes ” it’s interesting that Officers are making the political arguments here”. At this point none of the Labour Cabinet had explained how the priority decision had been arrived at. Graves quoted from an earlier Scrutiny meeting where Labour Councillors termed the £2.2m as “free money and they wanted to spend it on other things, the majority did, but other people didn’t”. He agreed with Cllr Holmes initial point that “there is no transparency” and that the decision has been made by Officers, and that ” Councillors just have to accept what’s being said”. He concluded by saying that “there are a lot of Councillors including a lot from your own party (Labour) who are unhappy with this decision”

The debate was ended by Cllr Rawson Deputy Leader – Labour who followed the lead of the Chief Exec by suggesting that these were permanent savings, and that the reason for the lack of prioritisation was down to Tory Cuts. He did not offer any rationale as to why the funds were not used to support areas which would have been popular, and important for the public…who they serve!

Conclusion

Trying to see through the debate, based on what was said.

As stated by the Chief Finance Officer , the savings were a one-off, so if they were to be used to support Moorways, Citizens Advice, Voluntary Sector etc it would be for a finite period of time, only – but could be used.  This seemed to be the reasoning for not supporting them. This is the real flaw in his argument. Even though the funding might be limited it would give time for other options to be explored and alternative sources of finance secured – this is exactly what would help many of these organisations and what is critical now.

Why would the Labour Council not wish to use a “windfall” like this to do something good for the public, to recover some of the misery that has fallen on many areas which cost relatively little but which would have a significant impact on people’s lives?

Politics!Pure and simple. For anyone who is in doubt please watch the short video clip of Cllr Rawson in an earlier article “Cllr Rawson reveals Labour Group’s cynical political priority”

As Cllr Graves points out, this decision is against the wishes of many Councillors, including many Labour members – it is the decision of the Officers, and a few members of the Cabinet. This is not how the Councils work – it should be on behalf of the public, or as Marples said by  “asking the public”. Yes, perhaps, for once, someone should be considering what the residents of Derby want, and not what supports the political aspirations of a few people in this Council.

POSTSCRIPT

Cllrs Banwait, Repton, Hussain were not present at the meeting.

 

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