Letter To The Editor: Council Finances On "Cliff Edge"

Conservative spokesman says Merton's finances need re-building

Dear Editor,

‘You can’t trust Labour with money’ is as true today in Merton as it ever was. Council finances are on a cliff edge and Stephen Alambritis’ Labour Group are in complete denial of the facts.

Alambritis’ Labour thought they could balance the books by gradually using up the £26 million of Council Tax they stashed away into balances and reserves over six years to March 2016. Money that could and should have been left in residents’ pockets or used to save services for the vulnerable and elderly.

Instead, even though adult care services have been overspending and unable to meet savings targets, they have suffered further cuts – until just before last Christmas. At last, Labour’s under budgeting was recognised and £11.927 million added to next year’s planned expenditure and £12.901 million in 2018/19 – but 1% on Council tax only generates about £700,000 so how do they plan to pay for it?

Even in this financial year (2016/17) the overspend is estimated at £6.325 million. That gap between income and expenditure and the projected gap next year (2017/18) will be plugged by a huge and unplanned raid of remaining reserves – yet these can only be spent once.

Labour’s Council Tax promise is now in tatters. They have known for some time what to expect in support from central government over the next three or four years but been in complete denial. It is not ‘business-like’ to add necessary growth and then cut it back so, if the reserves are exhausted, how can Council services be funded without a massive hike in Council Tax?

Merton’s finances need rebuilding but neither Corbyn’s nor Alambritis’ Labour Party can be trusted to get it right, which is why we will be setting out our alternative approach when it comes to setting the budget in Merton.

Councillor David Williams
Conservative Finance and Business Spokesman

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February 8, 2017