West Lindsey has more money in the bank

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EDITOR – Echo headline: We’re not hoarding cash, says council with £12m savings.

£12million in the bank - it’s nonsense. According to a handout I was given, dated 31.8.12, including the Iceland account the group balance was £19m. Significantly more than the £15.4m mentioned in the paper. One or the other has to be wrong.

The figures are easily available on the web, ie. in the West Lindsey District Council annual accounts book for 2011-2012 and in the WLDC Policy and Resources Committee reports.

On top of WLDC cash in the bank as stated by Coun Keimach we also have an instant low rate £5m overdraft facility and day to day cash reserves for in and out money.

Would you be surprised if the figure for total cash in the bank exceeded £20 Million on October 22? But it did.

From a cash flow perspective anyone would expect our cash to go up and down, in line with payments in and payments out but £20m + is a huge amount of money for a council with a £45m turnover.

The figures suggest to me we could give £10m back to council tax payers and still function perfectly well. And if we did run short there is always that big overdraft facility.

Why do I make the suggestion?

Firstly, because the council is not only losing money against inflation it could also be more energetic in finding new safe, accounts, to invest its money in and increase the return.

At present much of the money is invested at just under one per cent. Even if we only achieved a 1.5 per cent uplift that would be an extra £180,000 revenue and still only just keep pace with inflation.

Second, we councillors are frivolous with your money. In the last year we have given one director an early retirement pension top up of £70,000, paid another £27,000 to leave and the CEO a pension top up of £2,000 and pay increase of £1,458.

At the time of the first of these payments we were told the director would not be replaced and we would make a net saving of some £40,000 per year for the next three years. Within five minutes of his leaving we were back with three directors, even if they had different titles.

Now we are planning to give a property developer a subsidy of £200,000 to take Whitton Gardens, Gainsborough, off our hands by selling the site for £97,000.

As an unusable riverside plot, subject to a covenant and given to the town, the valuation might be right.

But this is not the case. The plan is to build a budget hotel, with no bar, restaurant or function rooms on the site, without even discussing the matter with residents and businesses.

Permission to build the hotel would take the value to anywhere between £250,000 to £400,000. The permission must have been hinted at for the developer to be interested or the scheme hailed as a great step forward by WLDC.

Many local businesses and residents think the plan will be detrimental to future prosperity.

It would seem the word “consultation” and “listening” are not in the vocabulary.

If you add the £180,000 under achievement on interest to the £100,000 paid to directors and the £200,000 subsidy planned for a property developer, it adds up to nearly £500,000.

At the same time as squandering this money, the council is planning to cut Council Tax Benefit Support to the poorest members of our community by £145,000 and is making officers redundant. How can that be right?

Giving £10m pounds back to 40,000 council tax payers would be appreciated by most and who, would I am sure, make much better use of the money.

One retired neighbour of mine, a widow has just received a gas and electricity demand increase of 50% from British Gas, up to £48 from £32. Her only income is her state pension.

When she complained to British Gas, the response was – use your fuel allowance to pay our £192 increase. She would be delighted to get some money back from WLDC.

Unfortunately, it is not just WLDC that does not seem to realise how difficult it is for ordinary people to earn each £1, Lincolnshire County Council is just as bad.

In financing the incinerator project, LCC turned down a £100m grant from DEFRA for the energy from waste plant. Why? because DEFRA, the experts, might have recommended a different process or solution. Why should that have been so bad? We might have saved some money.

In consequence, we Lincolnshire council tax payers now have to find an extra £100m at an interest rate of 4.18 per cent and repay the capital over 30 years. It is a waste of £7.5m every year, for 30 years, before you add in any of the other extra costs involved.

In business the purchasing manager would now be on gardening leave and probably facing claims for negligence in performing his duties.

Why is it important? £7.5M is money that could have been used to protect the funding for those with “special needs” who are now, together with their carers terrified of what the future will bring.

As a district councillor I am aware of a number of families in this situation in the ward who do suffer real hardship and the interface between them and LCC is at best second rate.

I do despair at the treatment they are getting. I could go on…

I have been a WLDC district councillor for 18 months and Coun Geoff Wiseman, WLDC, was the first to raise the cash mountain a couple of months after I joined.

Ever since we have both tried to get the situation reviewed and I have been trying to get satisfactory answers on the incinerator from LCC for nearly a year. Life should not be this difficult.

There is an easy answer, elect more Independent Councillors in district and county council elections, they are not whipped to toe the party line and are free ask the necessary awkward questions.

Chris Darcel and Geoff Wiseman,

WLDC Councillors for Fiskerton and Langworth and Middle Rasen,