Friday, 3 December 2010
K&C Rapped By Pickles
Cabinet Minister Eric Pickles singled out Labour-run Greenwich for sitting on £133 million, Tory-run Wandsworth, which has £105 million in the bank, and Kensington and Chelsea for hoarding £112 million.
Outside London, Crawley in West Sussex had enough cash in the vault to pay its bills for two years, he said. Essex, Hampshire, Kent andSurrey Heath were listed by the minister as sitting on piles of unspent money.
“I'm sure many residents would be shocked to find local authorities still have over £10 billion in their piggy banks when they are hearing weekly scare stories of service and job cuts,” said Mr Pickles.
He said some councils were acting like “Fort Knox” when the money would be better used to address the financial crisis.
Town hall chiefs are warning that a 28 per cent cut in their budgets over four years will inevitably hit frontline services and claim 140,000 jobs will be axed next year alone. More than 50 have reserves of £50 million or more and 165 have the cash equivalent of one fifth of their annual budget.
Councils are obliged by law to keep money in reserve in case of emergencies but Mr Pickles argues that most do not need to hold back more than 2.5 per cent of their budgets.
Labour's shadow local government secretary Caroline Flint said: “Eric Pickles's call for councils to run down their emergency reserves shows just how bad the consequences of his decision to frontload cuts to local government spending will be.”