Sandhurst Town Council denies "sitting on cash mountain" claimBy James Chapple
October 16, 2012
A council ‘sitting on a cash mountain of nearly £600,000’ should ‘come clean’ or pay money back to taxpayers, according to opposition councillors.
Bracknell Liberal Democrats accused Sandhurst Town Council of taking money from taxpayers under ‘false pretences’ and said holding back such a large sum of cash was ‘disproportionate’ and ‘out of line’ with other authorities of its size.
The Conservative-led town council responded that it was simply ‘prudent financial management’ to ensure the council was prepared in the event of any unplanned expense.
The council ended the year with assets totalling £593,847 – some £30,000 more than the council received in council tax for the year.
This includes £382,352 set aside in ‘earmarked reserves’ of which a further £153,000 is kept back for ‘future capital projects’, according to the council’s books which are made public every year.
The Lib Dems, however, say capital spending – major spending projects in the community – have been ‘minimal’ in recent years.
The council’s spending on capital projects fell from £15,479 to £9,366 in 2010/11 to 2011/12.
Ray Earwicker, Bracknell Lib Dem spokesman, said: “There had been no public announcement about the need for this money and I suspect the council has simply been building up a war-chest of cash for the future at the taxpayers’ expense.
“It should come clean and say what the money was intended for or give it back to local council taxpayers.
“A public consultation to establish the views of residents would not come amiss.
“The last one by the Conservative-dominated council nearly 10 years ago could have been used to follow up the programme of improvements initiated by the Lib Dems in the 1990s, but it wasn’t.”
However Cllr Nick Allen, chairman of strategy and policy, said Mr Earwicker’s contentions demonstrated a ‘lack of understanding’ of council finance.
“Sandhurst Town Council is a well- run council and does what a lot of people do – set aside funds for future projects such as enhancing the balancing pond or improving the play area.
“We do this over time in small sums so we don’t get large, unplanned expense that might need a sharp rise in council tax, like the one the Liberal Democrats had when in control of council in the 1990s, where they raised the precept a staggering 47 per cent in one year and still failed to deliver a single project of any long term value to the community.”
Cllr Allen said the council was in regular contact with its residents to ensure their wishes are met: “The council enjoys a high level of customer satisfaction with the services we provide.
“Our accounts are available for public inspection and during this year’s public consultation period, no one queried the accounts.”
He added the £382,000 in reserves will be, or has already been, spent on maintaining and enhancing local facilities while the £155,000 set aside for future projects would be mainly allocated to long-term planned maintenance.