Labour councillors have been sent the presentation from a Conservative ‘Group Seminar’ on 21 January at which the incoming Cabinet unveiled their budget to other Conservative councillors. The Conservatives reveal their agreed direction for the council includes “maximising commercial opportunities” and to “creatively finance while maintaining public probity”.
Comparing the private meeting papers with the published Budget report agreed by the Council’s Cabinet reveals Conservative councillors were told several things in private which they didn’t want to mention in public:
Westminster Council has to find £37m savings next year – but has only found £7m so far.
* The Conservatives’ strategy of increasing fees and charges is very risky but the risk has been downplayed. In private they admit “an [economic] downturn could have a dramatic impact on the outturn”.
* Increasing council funds are having to be spent coping with the housing crisis, and government policy is making it worse.
* The Pest Control service is under threat: it’s not paying its way and the council doesn’t have a legal requirement to have one.
* Delays in the council’s capital building programme are making it uncertain and difficult to finance.
* Even more cuts and charges are on their way in future years – even if the government stops cutting its grant.
Labour’s budget spokesman Councillor David Boothroyd said:
“It’s fascinating to see what the Westminster Tories tell themselves in private, but also deeply concerning. What does ‘creatively finance while maintaining public probity’ mean? It sounds like an admission that the council’s financial antics are putting a strain on probity.”
The full text of the papers are here conservative-group-seminar-papers