Wealthy council faces tax cut calls
CALLS have been made for council tax to be slashed after accounts show a cash rich authority is worth £132 million.The end of year accounts for St Edmundsbury Borough Council show it has a net worth of £132,926,000, with £4,283,000 in its reserve fund and £666,000 cash in the bank.
CALLS have been made for council tax to be slashed after accounts show a cash rich authority is worth £132 million.
The end of year accounts for St Edmundsbury Borough Council show it has a net worth of £132,926,000, with £4,283,000 in its reserve fund and £666,000 cash in the bank.
This has led to a call for the council to cut its council tax increase for the forthcoming year below the projected 5% it is aiming to levy on the public.
Councillor David Nettleton, who has previously lobbied for council tax cuts, told the EADT: “We have had advice from the auditor that we need to keep £1.5 million in the general reserve, but last year we had £2.9 million and when I called for some of that money, only £180,000, to be used to bring down the council tax everyone jumped down my throat.
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“Now we've got £4.9 million and while I realise we need some money in reserve in the case of emergencies, and I can see we might need as much as £2 million, but I can't see what sort of emergency would need £4.9 million.”
“I can't see why some of that money can't be set off against the council tax. “It's money that's already been paid by the council tax payers and it should be used to help them rather than just sitting there.”
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Neither Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for resources, nor council leader John Griffiths were available for comment and deputy leader Andrew Varley declined to comment.
However, Graham Moore, St Edmundsbury chief finance officer, said: “I'm not uncomfortable with the current level of balances given challenges facing the council in the future, particularly with the pressure being placed on us to have significantly lower council tax rises in the future.”
The council's financial statements also show there is a shortfall in the council's pension scheme of £8.9 million.
St Edmundsbury accountant Kim Ryder said due to fluctuations in the stock market, there had been a nation-wide drop in pension scheme funds, but he did not consider the council's predicament was “cause for concern.”
He said the deficit would be made up through the council tax, probably over a 15 year period in order to reduce the impact on the public purse.
Mr Nettleton said: “There is a mixed message being sent out and without wanting to prejudge the issue, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that some of the reserve might be offset against the pension fund deficit.”
The council's net worth of in excess of £132 million was an increase on the previous year's total of £113 million.