Council Leader hits out at incorrect BBC local authority finance article

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Rob Gledhill
Rob Gledhill

Cllr Rob Gledhill, Leader of Thurrock Council has hit out at spurious claims made in a BBC report that Thurrock Council is one of 11 UK authorities in danger of depleting their reserves.

Cllr Gledhill said: “This report appears to be based on incorrect assumptions and faulty maths. The idea that Thurrock Council could be in danger of running out of reserves is ludicrous. Thanks to our long-term economic plan and investment strategy we are in one of the strongest financial positions of any unitary authority in the UK.

“We currently have a four year balanced budget and a published £16m surplus over the same period with no cuts to services as well as freezing council tax for this year – something less than 5 per cent of councils in the UK achieved last year.

“The real issue here is that the BBC have included earmarked reserves as part of its calculations when they have no bearing on financial resilience. Earmarked reserves are set aside to be used to deliver specific improvements to the borough whereas general reserves provide a true measure of resilience. Our general reserves increased by almost 40% from £8m to £11m in 2017/18 which is a true indicator of how well our finances truly are.

“Despite increasing general reserves Thurrock Council has invested significantly in Adult’s, Children’s and Environmental services including £7m for new bin lorries and providing funding for new local schools as examples.

“On top of this we have gone above and beyond by committing around £5m from surpluses created over the last two years to fund services councils do not have a legal duty to provide including £500,000 for mental health support in local schools, £670,000 this year and last year to tackle anti-social behaviour, £1m for extra Police over three years and £1.5m for environmental improvements.

“Earmarked reserves do not represent the council’s financial strength in any way and to use them to suggest otherwise is both misleading and incorrect.

“The council has made its stance well known that it doesn’t expect earmarked reserves to remain unspent. We will continue to spend these earmarked reserves to benefit the people of Thurrock rather than just leaving them sitting on a balance sheet.”

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