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Council keep on raiding reserves

May 18, 2008 9:26 AM

Broken pound signDespite assurances Spelthorne Council is continuing to rely on its reserves to prop up its weak financial position. In 2006 we were assured that there would be a balanced budget but in this year's annual information provided to residents, a total £1.047m will be taken from reserves.

The reserves have arisen from the sale of Council assets, largely the housing stock that was sold in 1997. The Council is relying on the current level of reserves being topped up by the sale of assets such as Bridge Street car park and the Benwell day centre site.

Although the official use of reserves is £1.047m, the real level is much closer to £3m. A change in policy in 2007 means that all the interest on reserves is allocated to current expenditure - this is expected to be £1.88m. In addition the Council uses some creative accounting to allow the use of £272k of reserves to pay certain salaries - these are not included in the £1.047m.

Local Liberal Democrats have worked hard to understand the Council accounts.

Halliford and Sunbury West Councillor, Lawrence Nichols said "The Conservatives continually state that they have exercised prudent financial management in Spelthorne. During my first year on the Council I have become aware of a number of instances of weak financial management and inadequate understanding by Councillors. Through the scrutiny committees we are highlighting things that we believe are inadequate and suggesting improvements. It has become apparent that the ruling Tory group didn't really understand what they voted for when they passed the budget."