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Brentwood Council finances statement

December 9, 2009 8:00 PM
By Cllr David Kendall
Cllr David Kendall

Lib Dem Leader Cllr David Kendall makes a statement on the financial mess at Tory-controlled Brentwood Council

The Leader is trying to defend the indefensible and put a brave face on the situation but even she cannot escape the fact that this Council's finances are in a serious mess and her administration has to accept the lion's share of the blame.

At the Audit meeting on 24th November the Auditor said:

"The Council has suffered from departure of key staff, loss of knowledge and lack of information and evidence". Not my words but the words of the Independent Auditor.

This has led to a situation under this Conservative administration where we:

Now, the Leader and her colleagues will tell us many of these problems are historical, they have been happening for years, it's the previous Lib Dem administration's fault. It seems it's everyone's fault apart from this administration. No one ever holds their hands up and actually says "We're sorry we got it wrong".

Before you start blaming everyone else let's look at a few facts.

Let's look at what you have done.

Looking back you have to ask the question who was managing and scrutinising these two officers and the rest of our finance dept to make sure they were doing the job they were paid to do? In this new age of transparency our residents quite rightly expect someone to step up to the plate and take some responsibility and accountability for the situation. I look forward to hearing the answer.

When the Audit Commissions report was published why was it left to Mr McKenzie, an officer who'd only been with the Council a short time, to make a statement on the finances. Surely we should have had a statement from our Chief Executive on the matter, particularly as she and her officers had been overseeing and managing the structural changes.

Turning to some of the specifics in this report:

If you look at Appendix 2a "Analysis of budget monitoring", you will see some very worrying trends. Yes, some of these trends are down to the economic downturn but others, I believe, are self inflicted by this administration.

The Audit Commission was definitely right to state that we had unrealistic income projections in the 2008/9 budget - take Car Parking. As we can see our revenue from car parking charges has been badly hit.

The Lib Dems called for a freeze on all car parking charges at last year's budget setting meeting and were accused of being irresponsible. But look at the facts:

Having spoken at length to Peter McKenzie, our new Head of Finance, I believe that if he is given the right support he can use his experience and expertise to start turning our finances round but he has a very tough job on his hands. We wish him well.

Finally Mr Mayor. let me leave you with this thought. When the Liberal Democrats ran the Council:

The Leader can play "the blame game" but after almost SIX years of the Tories running this council I will leave it to our residents to see through her empty rhetoric and decide for themselves who is responsible for this sorry state of affairs.