Thu, 17 May 2018
THE opposition leader of West Berkshire Council has accused the Conservative-led authority of stashing up reserves.
At the council’s first full meeting of the 2018-19 year last week, members agreed to top up the council’s transformation fund with an additional £561,000.
The district’s transformation reserve is a fund made up of capital receipts left over from the sale of council assets.
The reserve’s main purpose is to aid the restructuring of the council’s frontline services and make savings.
Should it be approved by the council’s budget board, the additional £561,000 would bring the transformation fund total to just over £1m.
During the meeting, the council’s portfolio holder for finance, transformation and property, Anthony Chadley (Con, Birch Copse), reminded members of the reserve’s purpose.
He stated that the transformation fund would be used to benefit residents in the long-term, rather than being “short-term political money giveaway”.
But opposition leader Lee Dillon criticised the Conservatives for “stashing the cash”, which he claimed was all the more significant in light of the introduction of the £50 green bin charge this summer.
Referring to the transitional fund, Mr Dillon said: “This money can be used to lessen the harm that the cuts are having.
“While councillor Chadley talks about political giveaways, actually spending the money on services that affect residents isn’t a political giveaway – it’s facing the reality that our residents are experiencing in rising costs, such as the introduction of the £50 for the green bins.”
To date, just over £3m has been spent or allocated to projects to help transform council services since the Local Government Spending Review in 2015 gave local authorities greater flexibility over their capital receipts.
Addressing the council’s newly-elected chairman Carol Jackson-Doerge, Mr Dillon said that while he supported the transfer of the additional money into the reserve, it should not be left there in the long run.
He said: “By all means, madam chairman, put this money into the transformation reserve, but let’s make sure we spend it so we can feel the benefit of it.”
At the March council meeting, Mr Dillon had urged the council to maximise the use of its transition fund in an effort to “lessen the pain on residents” amid a period of increased charges.
This included using £450,000 of transitional fund money to reduce the cost of collecting green bins to £25 per household, instead of the proposed £50 per household.