Labour express “deep concern” over Harlow Council “overspend”

News / Mon 5th Dec 2022 at 08:47am

THE LEADER of Harlow Labour has expressed his ‘deep concern” over the way the Conservatives are running Harlow Council.

Councillor Chris Vince said: “Harlow Council’s cabinet meeting on the 1st of December revealed time and time again the Conservative Party’s contempt for Harlow.

Since 2010 funding has been cut to Harlow Council by a staggering £64.2m. On top of that they have cut funding to the tax support scheme, expecting Harlow Council to fund it and then, by expecting the council to buy back it’s own council housing stock, leave us with a £200m debt.

However, locally the new Conservative administration at Harlow Council is not covering itself in glory either. Last year they overspent by £1.2m and this year they are on course to overspend by a further £666k. This figure takes into account the fact that they are hugely understaffed, having saved £448k by failing to fill staff vacancies, which means the figure could be even higher. And what have they got to show for the expenditure?

Leaking roofs, failing services, housing repairs in chaos with a depleted and demoralised workforce. Their fiscal incompetence grows worse with every passing day.

One of the ways the Conservatives are hoping to save cash, although nothing like enough to cover their overspend, is by not filling many of the vacancies. This will mean less council staff and a severely diminished service level at the very time they are launching a customer service improvement plan. You really couldn’t make it up!

“However, as the Conservative administration told us at the cabinet meeting, the council’s ‘sole priority is regeneration’, bolstering the egos of Tory councillors and filling the pockets of developers whilst 100’s of residents live under leaking roofs and many more face an uncertain and cold winter”.

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19 Comments for Labour express “deep concern” over Harlow Council “overspend”:

2022-12-05 08:58:19

This is completely untrue. The council is in a strong financial position and has passed and continues with balanced budgets - as it must do legally.

Nicholas Taylor
2022-12-05 09:11:57

So Dan, (Councillor Dan Swords?)perhaps you can be clearer in your responses to Cllr Vince? Did the Council overspend £1.2 million last year? Are they going to overspend by £666k this year. Are vacant posts not being filled (or at least being delayed as long as possible) Are there not hundreds of tenants with leaking roofs, damaged ceilings and other major repairs needed to their homes?

2022-12-05 09:36:20

Cllr Vince knows full well that council budgets have to be approved as balanced and legal by the Section 151 officer. He also knows that the overspends he claims to have identified were Covid related pressures that were funded from reserves, this is something that is normal and the reason councils have reserves so they are able to deal with emergency spending without effecting local services. Something the Labour Administration failed local businesses with at the height of lockdown by not passing on grants etc to businesses that were entitled to them and then trying to blame national government and even their own hardworking officers who were trying to administer the grants when the labour administration provided no leadership or guidance. His claims are dangerous and highly misleading.

2022-12-05 09:39:56

Yet the Conservative government is quite prepared to throw billions at EDF for a nuclear reactor that'll not be finished until 2035 / 40, uses fuel that under control of Putin, coming from mainly Uzbekistan (Russian satellite), is a copy of one already built aboard that doesn't work instead of going for alternative power sources and installing installation that'll be at least five times cheaper, could start being installed tomorrow and wont have the problem of highly toxic waste that has to be stored securely for 100,000 years. Reference: Evidence to Parliamentary Select Committee on Nuclear Power November 2022.

David Forman
2022-12-05 09:41:00

The public reports pack for the 22 September Cabinet meeting lists the word 'vacancies' some 20 times and the word 'vacancy' 3 times. I asked a question at that meeting regarding poor performance of answering phone calls by Contact Harlow. Here it is in part: "Under Agenda Item 11 on page 124 the KPI CS50 shows the average waiting time for calls received by Contact Harlow. Despite a target of 40 seconds, the average waiting time increased successively in each quarter of 2021/22 from 1m 15s to 2m 56s. In quarter 1 of 2022/23 the average waiting time was 2m 43s and this was despite increasing the target time to 44 seconds. In relation to Contact Harlow, under Agenda Item 10 on page 61 it shows that Harlow Council saved £32,000 in staffing costs due to staff vacancies. See link to reports pack for 22/9 Cabinet: https://moderngov.harlow.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=121&MId=1485&Ver=4

Kim Oconnor
2022-12-05 09:44:39

Oh Dan swords, I am Prof that damaged roofs are not being fixed, windows are not being replaced, causing mold. I've tried for years to get theses windows replaced. I know first hand . Infact no repairs are getting done. And I know there's plenty of us. Your soul commitment are on huge,unaffordable housing, that no body wants. Its council houses we need. The last piece of this statement is completely true.

2022-12-05 09:55:41

As a humble tax payer,I would like to know why over the past 25 years my taxes( local and national) keep rising as a percent of my income, yet the services I should have available to me have reduced? Where is the money going? Why is it costing more and more as a percent of income to deliver less?

2022-12-05 13:26:13

Theman, the government cuts money to local Councils and gives it to the French nuclear power industry, so your taxes are going to subsidize French households. Same government logic that now means 72% of UK water is foreign owned (much of it by foreign governments), similar for railways so these companies put our bills up, hive off massive profits whilst underspending on modernising aging Victorian engineering. Hence the beef of the railway workers. Privatisation of the nhs by stealth was a Thatcher policy that Blair continued. The government strategy is to let a service wither, underfund, under invest in, underpay and overwork ylthe stff and be weakened by change after change then castigate the workforce for being lazy and under productive reoganise again (adding chaos and costs) and put some totally inadequate about of money in before elections and then sit back and weep crocodile tears just before elections, saying "We invested x millions but (insert whatever excuse you like here from "It's Putin's fault " to "These workers are immoral to strike") it's not our fault; elect us and we'll be tough on etc etc . Same old story: send em all to jungle for a year.

James Leppard
2022-12-05 14:38:50

As the Portfolio Holder for Finance, I can confirm that Cllr Vince’s assertion that the Council overspent by £1.2 mn last Financial Year is manifestly untrue. He well knows that Councils are legally obliged to present a balanced budget. He was present when the 2022/23 Budget was presented to Full Council and knows that there was no such overspend. This is nothing more than the usual unsubstantiated nonsense we have become accustomed to hear from the Opposition, who never present any plans other than that of increasing residents’ Council Tax burdens and wasting taxpayer funds as they did consistently throughout their decade in Administration.

2022-12-05 15:20:42

Money, Money, Money! James Lappard its easy to Balance a budget if you don't spend it on the items you should be spending it on such "as leaking roofs damaged ceilings and other major repairs". Outcomes are what matter, there is little evidence to demonstrate the council are delivering.

Mr Grumpy
2022-12-05 19:04:21

Labour moaning about The Tories with the Tories moaning about Labour ......... Change the record please!! ZZZZZZzzzzzz....

2022-12-06 09:14:02

So who is it that’s Lying, can we Have the name of the person who’s telling lies please. Both sides keep accusing the other side.

Danny Long
2022-12-06 09:40:43

This is a bit rich coming from Harlow Labour when it was the party that made a mess of the finance of Harlow and all of the Uk back in 2008.

James Leppard
2022-12-06 10:39:44

David, just ask Cllr Vince to provide clear details and evidence of his alleged £1.2 m overspend. Do not expect a quick and clear reply.

Mike Dempsey
2022-12-06 14:46:32

That's a bit unfair of James Leopard to suggest Cllr Vince provide clear details. It is the same league as asking Boris Johnson to stop lying!

Chris Vince
2022-12-07 21:20:17

Cabinet report from September page 38 D - Approves the transfer of £1.215 million from the Budget Resilience Reserve to meet the 2021/22 overspend. You're welcome.

2022-12-08 10:52:23

So is that proof Mr Leopard?

James Leppard
2022-12-09 10:49:58

Algy, sadly no. Either Cllr Vince is suffering from temporary amnesia or, as we have become accustomed, he has once again displayed a familiar lack of attention to detail. He is referring to a call made on the Budget Resilience Reserve that was set up by his previous Labour Administration with cross party support as a contingency to support the impact of the COVID pandemic, which had a detrimental impact on certain revenue streams such as Car parks, rentals at the new innovation park, etc. What he refers to is not an ‘overspend’ as was clearly explained at the time but rather the use of a reserve established by his administration precisely for such purposes. Unlike the Labour administration, the current administration does not subscribe to the view that reserves are created with taxpayers’ funds simply to sit there. If he focused more on the facts rather than self-promotion in his drive to become the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Colchester, he might avoid such misleading errors.

2022-12-10 13:23:15

Political point scoring is becoming a bore. You could have said that in 3 lines and left out the personal attacks. So had the last labour admin not have built up a contingency fund you would have had to find £1.25m and therefore have gone that much into n overspend?Just as well they didn’t spend it otherwise you’d have been in trouble.

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