Friday, March 31, 2023

Tories Question Labours’ Budget Strategy

SEPTEMBER 2009 is accepted by many as the turning point for Thurrock Council’s ability to run its own financial affairs. One of the key factors was Cllr Barry Johnson taking up a specific Portfolio position in relation to finance. Barry worked hand in glove with officers such as Sean Clark to take Thurrock from what one officer had privately described as a “medieval state of affairs”.

May came and went and Labour manoevured their way into power. The Audit Commission produced their assessment of the council’s governance. It made for grim reading on the one hand but it also hinted at the green shoots of recovery.

Labour appear to have an easy win as the Tories let the reserves dwindle to just over a million. Labour are now in a: “Taking Care Of Business” mode. Cllr Barry Johnson is not so sure.

In response to the question: “Did the Tories nearly bankrupt Thurrock?” He answers:

“There were few surprises in the Audit Commission report as the Conservative administration were not happy with the financial reporting and accuracy for some time.

The main problem with their reports is that they are always out of date, at the moment, when they are releases, perhaps why that is one of the reasons they will soon be defunct.

The Conservative administration appointed a new management team to the Finance and Governance area in order to correct these problems. The report makes reference to that.

It was the Conservative administration that approved a much more open budget process ensuring that all the Overview and Scrutiny Committees were involved at early stages to give Cabinet time to listen. We also introduced the Medium Term Financial Strategy and it was us who insisted on £1m being set aside to replenish the reserves.

More importantly, we put forward a robust budget that was declared achievable and sustainable by finding close to £9m worth of efficency savings

Far from nearly bankrupting the council, I believe our administration has put the Council on firm ground with systems in place to ensure that everyone meets their savings.

I believe it was a mistake to remove the post of Finance Portfolio Holder. In my opinion, it does not offer the very well respected Finance Team the political leadership it needs.


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