Harlow Labour express deep concern over £900,000 “black hole” in council finances
General / Mon 7th Mar 2022 at 05:19pm
TWO Labour candidates for the forthcoming local council elections have expressed concern over a £900,000 overspend at Harlow Council and have asked the question: “Has the train already fallen off the rails of the new Conservative Council?”.
Stefan Mullard (Staple Tye) and James Griggs (Netteswell) said: “Every year Labour was in control of Council, we always spent within our means. When you take into account the ever-decreasing money from Central Government (70% over the last 12 years), we found a way to make the books balance every single year. Just over 9 months into the Conservative administration and they are already reporting a black hole of over £900,000.
Whilst Labour was in power, we set aside £1,500,000 in a reserve, which was used to help cover the impact of Covid-19 on the council finances. For the Conservatives to use most of this in the first year is financially reckless and puts the long-term stability of our Council at risk.
Let’s put the £900,000 black hole into context: the annual cost of running Pets Corner is £325,000. The paddling pools are around £115,000. You can see how devastating this black hole will be when the Conservatives have to set their next budget. Our priorities, during our time in power, were always protecting the things that are loved by the residents of Harlow.
The decisions taken by the Conservatives in their first 10 months are nothing short of reckless. They put at risk the things we cherish the most. They have raided the reserves. They are leaving staffing posts vacant, in a desperate attempt, to save another £250,000. They offered a “tax-cut” of less than £1 per week whilst their friends in County Council and the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner increase them by so much that you still end up paying more.
It won’t be too long before all of these chickens come home to roost and the people of Harlow will be the ones who will pay the price. Thursday’s Cabinet meeting has shown an administration on the ropes after only 10 months. Labour has a record to be proud of when it comes to Council finances, the same will not be said for the people currently in charge.
“The Conservatives talk about having a ‘commercially savvy’ council, any business run this way would be on the verge of collapse by now!”
If Stefan Mullard and James Griggs actually bothered to listen to the Cabinet meeting and actually read the Council Budget, they might realise they are talking total nonsense (as they usually are). They are still reeling from the embarrassment of their hypocrisy over their Stort Crossing, which they approved in their December 2020 Harlow Plan. Their failed administration increased taxes every year for no purpose. The truth is that the new administration has made full provision Pet’s Corner, etc. including enough in the budget for two more Labour donkeys!
After a decade of incompetence, buying houses at 4x the price of building them, increasing taxes every year, leaving the town centre looking like a bomb site, do these so called Labour Momentum candidates (bring back Jeremy Corbyn to face Putin) actually think anyone gives a damn for their opinions or believes a word they say. They are total clowns.
It would seem that certain people are unaware that Harlow Council do not actually own the buildings in the town centre, almost all if not all are privately owned and this makes any regeneration of the town centre very difficult to say the least. All of the degradation of the town centre is caused by companies holding the town to ransom with the prospect of no redevelopment unless the council agree to the construction of a mass of high rise buildings that will only benefit the owners of the vacant plots, this will in turn only ruin the original Harlow town plan and the ideals that were put in place by Sir Frederick Gibbard.
Time for the Council to have the courage to challenge the private speculative developers, stop the crossings, compulsory purchase the town centre properties and produce plans that will actually improve Harlow rather than damage it.
What a shame but not a shock!! Politics again interfering with Council yes Council business whom by the wy are supposed to be elected by the residents for the benefit of the residents NOT Politics! I feel they all need their heads banging together and get things sorted together because all I have heard in the last few years is, Bus Lanes what a waste of money they cause accidents! yet a Conservative councillor feels crossing 3 lanes of traffic is perfectly safe! Stort crossing we dont want we do want it wasnt voted by me it was voted by them I just donet get this crap! We are going to smarten up the town with more grass mowing! More trees, yet the roads are a total disgrace and dangerous, Lets place a lockable bar across the carparks to stop vans going in and parking stopping people who only have a van from parking! The council is a complete joke and it makes me sick the way politics has robbed the residents of a town which they have a say in its upkeep!
Be interesting to know from Messrs Mullard and Griggs how their Labour square the circle of proposing the Stort Crossings in their Harlow Plan 2020, voted for it on over 7 occasions and then as if by magic, reject it. Sounds odd to say the least. Secondly, why in 10 years could they not do what the new Conservative administration have done and brought in planning ringfence around the Town Centre to stop private developments running counter to the regeneration programme? Harlow Labour has a lot to answer for.
The shortfalls are mainly Covid-19 related. However, Cllr James Leppard admitted that money received from car parking charges may never return to pre-pandemic levels. Stefan Mullard and James Griggs are likeable chaps, but they do appear to have short memories of Labour's near £1.6 million wasted on regeneration projects that never happened and a failed Compulsory Purchase Order on 10acres of land at London Road. Hardly a record to boast about. I'm sure Stefan and James hope the electorate have a bad case of amnesia from May 1st.
I'm wondering how labour managed to put £1.5M into reserves for the pandemic. Is this when they wasn't paying our small businesses the grants they was eligible for to help them keep afloat. Instead find a loophole and a different smaller grant they could give instead. If the small businesses managed to receive they grants in the first place.