No Decision On Council Overspend Bailout Until After ‘Brexit’ Referendum
And the islands’ ratepayers may need to subsidise the shortfall of over £1m.
Recently the Council announced that they will have to make urgent savings of £670,000 on their annual running costs this financial year.
That’s despite a 3.99% increase in Council Tax and little change in their annual Government grant.
Chief Exec Theo Leijser had been appointed to balance the Council’s books but his controversial reorganisation in 2014 failed to make the required savings.
ScillyToday has continually questioned Council management over the failure to deliver the Porthcressa and Airport projects on budget and whether the authority was being exposed to risk because of the spiralling costs.
Most councillors were unaware of the £600,000 Porthcressa overspend until ScillyToday raised the matter with members, following detailed scrutiny of the Council’s accounts.
Back in November 2015, Vice Chairman Steve Sims told a public meeting that he expected to hear whether the EU would fund the shortfall by the end of January 2016.
ScillyToday has twice contacted the authority’s press office to ask whether the extra money to meet the overspend has been offered. The press office has ignored our emails.
Once again ScillyToday had to resort to lodging a Freedom of Information request to find out whether the ratepayer would be liable for the overbudget schemes.
In a written response the Council told us: “We hoped a decision would be made in January 2016 but the programme has not yet formally closed and we are now unlikely to know before the end of April 2016. With the recent movements in exchange rates and the EU referendum a decision could take some time.”
In the past few months, some councillors have become increasingly wary of the authority’s economic development plans. These have often relied on grants, with the council having to find top-up cash or money for ongoing revenue costs.
In last month’s Full Council meeting, Cllr Gaz O’Neill warned that there was “no such thing as a free lunch.”
Some locals have praised the forward vision of the Economic Development team, managed by Senior Officer Diana Mompoloki, in developing a project to encourage electric vehicle use with Japanese partners Hitachi.
But a number of islanders have expressed concern that the Council is moving into areas outside their key remit and they’d prefer that the authority concentrates on public services, like Park House and social care.