I was delighted to learn from Coun Bedford that the council’s finances are no longer in a dire state – no doubt we can now look forward to better times to come!
As we all know financial positions don’t just turn around overnight, certainly not in the public sector, and when BBI took over the administration in 2007 the council’s finances were in a very dire state.
Service delivery costs were at an astonishing 94 per cent of the net budget available! An improvement board was set up at BBI’s request and by 2011 the finances were already on the mend.
In fact, following a meeting with the cabinet, a senior audit commission officer stated they were fully satisfied that we were in control of the situation.
The BBI discovered that during the previous administrations council taxes (1997-2007) had doubled and yet inflation had only averaged 2.6 per cent.
The BBI therefore took the decision not to increase council tax. This was at a time when the people of Boston were being placed on short time, losing their pension benefits and even being made redundant. Furthermore we still managed to produce a balanced budget.
The modest increases in council tax that Coun Bedford refers to would have made little difference to a deteriorating situation. The fact is staff incremental increases and pension contribution support of 23.2 per cent, all paid out of council taxes, would have meant council tax increases above 10 per cent! Clearly savings had to be made elsewhere which, I understand, the government is now trying to address. It is interesting to note that with the full co-operation of staff modest changes in their benefits were made helping with the dire financial situation at that time.
Readers should be aware that the problems certainly have not yet gone away!
As far as the Geoff Moulder Leisure Pool is concerned and the training pool in particular, the main users were, and still are, the schools and the Swimming Club. Before the Training Pool was closed they were pressed for financial help to keep it open but this request was refused. Once the pool was closed both organisations realised that the Training Pool was very important to them and they then agreed to make a serious financial contribution towards the large running costs. At that time the total support required from the tax payer for the GMLP as a whole was close to £900,000.
The Leisure Pool usage is impressive but I think we need to bear in mind that the figures might be affected by the unusual weather conditions – wettest summer for a 100 years. And the much-needed improvements which were agreed by the BBI but carried out by the current administration.
The next couple of years might give us a better picture if this usage is sustainable and increasing. It would also be good to know that the Training Pool is also available, at certain times, to the general public who want to use it.
Finally, it would be interesting to know who provided the national press with the misinformation regarding the 28 per cent councillor pay increase?
Former finance portfolio holder for the BBI administration