Neil Hargreaves: ‘Sound finances does not mean hoarding’

I’m an accountant and am working with a small team reviewing the UDC accounts for the R4U policy manifesto. Sound finances are essential for all organisations and local councils are no exception. But what does ‘sound’ mean? Most obviously it means balancing income and expenditure, on a yearly basis, and long term. And it also means holding reasonable reserves, for example to cover unexpected expenditure, short term variations in income, and for projects where funds are allocated but work has not yet begun. But it does not mean hoarding cash which should be spent or returned to taxpayers. We know UDC has a very substantial pot for fighting planning appeals against its own decisions, but refuses to use it and leaves residents and other councils to pick up the tab.

There are accusations of UDC keeping many £millions of unused provisions, and in the most recent budget they added another round sum £1million ‘Strategic Initiatives Fund’. The description of this reserve is so vague it looks like it could be spent on pretty much anything, or even not spent at all and just carried forward.

A year ago UDC reduced council tax discounts for the poorest people in Uttlesford at the same time as increasing allowances for the council leaders. Not acceptable.

There’s some serious work to be done…. .