Luton council underspent by a massive £13.1 million in the 12 months to march 2013 – though you’d struggle to know it from two official council reports.
A likely, “provisional” underspend was reported to Executive in early June, when a figure of £13.035 million was tucked away halfway down an Appendix at the back. The headline figure was nowhere to be found in the main report, recommendations or commentary.
A further report to next Monday’s Labour Executive quotes £9.157 million – but this is for service units only and omits £4 million of central budgets. The true £13.1 million total was confirmed in reply to Liberal Democrat questioning at a Finance meeting on Thursday.
Many residents will be appalled to hear of such a large pot of money left unspent in a year that Labour have both raised Council Tax, and cut one valued service after another.
Barnfield and Bushmead Lib Dem councillor, Martin Pantling says:
“When Labour decided in their Budget in February to turn down a two-year Government Grant to freeze Council Tax, and to tax local residents an extra £1.1 million a year instead, they admitted they might be underspending by around £4 million.”
“A few months later, the truth is out – they underspent by £13.1 million. Yet they are still charging people more, slashing grants to voluntary organisations, removing support for Bus services like the number 35, introducing £25 Fees to collect bulky waste, closing libraries, reducing care packages, privatising services – then having the cheek to blame Government for all their decisions, while refusing grants and not spending their services Budgets.”
“Labour have no more claim to be trusted with people’s money locally as they have on the national Economy. Whether it’s drastic underspends on and cuts to local services, or big overspends on pet capital schemes, they simply cannot run the Council properly.”
Labour underspent on the Revenue Budget (for day-to-day services, not Capital schemes) by £4 million in 2011-12, then by a further £13.1 million in 2012-13.
They also made a £4.7 million surplus on Council rents in 2012-13 (Housing Revenue Account Outturn, page 28 of report) – this is the profit on rent paid by tenants. This suggests that further repairs, improvements or services could have been delivered with the money.