As Tory Councillors in Bromley contemplate which local services to cut as part of the budget process for setting your council tax for the forthcoming financial year, don’t be fooled into believing the Council is strapped for cash. Whilst it is true the government grant to local authorities has been reduced in recent years, your Council is not as hard up as it makes out to be. Despite ‘austerity’ measures the size of Bromley Council’s coffers has increased considerably since 2010.
Public accounts for year end March 2015 show the Council has a total of £666million in assets and reserves. Included in this figure is £182million of usable reserves which can be used to pay for services and capital improvements. In 2010 the Council’s usable reserves stood at £115 million, so an increase in this pot of 58% at a time when essential local services, such as children and youth services, support for the elderly and vulnerable, trading standards and environmental services to name but a few have been cut.
In addition to usable reserves, the Council has also built up a substantial portfolio of property investments which currently stands at £117.6million with £43.5 million of this sum having been spent by the Tories on the purchase of eight additional commercial properties in less than two years.
When I questioned a senior Tory councillor about the use of reserves at a recent council meeting his response was
‘ the use of reserves is something that is far better understood in private industry than it is in public service and public service has to start thinking like private industry if we are to balance the books’.
Cold comfort for anyone desperate to use the toilet only to find it has been boarded up by your caring, sharing Tory council. It is rumoured the adult education service is for the chop this time and I dread to think what else is on their hit list. Still never mind, every £1 saved by cutting essential services in Bromley means another £1 available to go into the ever increasing stash.
The Council will be meeting to debate and set the Council Tax for 2016/17 on Monday 22 February at 7pm. This will take place in Bromley Civic Centre in the Council Chamber. The public are able to attend.