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Use Some of Underspend to Protect Valued Services Liberal Democrats Urge

Liberal Democrat Councillors are calling on the Labour Executive to ease their financial straight-jacket and use some of the rapidly increasing reserves to protect valued services.

The call comes at a time when Luton Council has around £50 million in various Reserves, and when an additional £10.24 million underspend in 2012/13 has been revealed – just as the Labour Executive are cutting various transport support and liaising on closing Libraries.

While Reserves should not be used for one-off, short-term spending, the level of underspend and reserves now held leaves flexibility to postpone or reverse various cuts in the interests of residents. As examples, and while nobody is advocating the use of the whole underspend for these purposes, £10.24 million ONE YEAR underspend alone, invested at inflation, could:

  • Fund a 50% contribution to Denominational Transport costs for nearly 50 years ; or
  • Continue the tendered evening and weekend bus services where subsidy is being withdrawn for the next 30 years ; or
  • Protect Grounds Maintenance work, grass cutting and litter collection (recommended to be cut tonight) for up to 12 years ; or
  • Put Labour’s proposed £25 Bulky Waste Collection charge (“Dumpers Charter) on hold for 40 years – and reinstate staff to do the collections ; or
  • Reinstate cuts to Health & Safety Inspections of Hot Food Takeaways for 100 years;
  • OR : Fund 20 loss-making Love Luton pop concerts at £500K a time

Luton Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, Martin Pantling said:

“ Labour’s financial approach seems to consist of three main things: worrying overspending on huge Capital projects ; significant underspends on and ongoing cuts to the frontline services people really value ; and refusing Government grants in favour of taxing Luton residents more, only to pile this money and much more into reserves at the end of the year.”

“ We are certainly not suggesting the whole underspend should be used for any of the examples we have given. But they do give an indication of how far money not spent last year could be made to stretch, and put pay to claims that using some reserves sensibly to protect valued services over the medium term cannot be done. It clearly can.”

“ I urge Labour Councillors to put down the dogmatic political script, stop playing the blame game, and act to protect valued services now. There is plenty of scope to do so.”

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