At this evening meeting of the Ashington and Blyth Area Council, Peter Jackson the Leader of the Minority Tory administration on Northumberland County Council alleged that the council faced a £65m black hole and revealed a 2.99% rise in council tax. The Conservative led administration also announced a 1% rise for adult social care. The rises will last two years meaning residents will see bills rise by nearly 8% over the next two years.
Labour hit back citing the recently released council auditor report by EY which raised concerns about the lack of planning for £30m cuts. Labour also highlighted Conservative decisions which have racked up at least £29m of unnecessary spending and lost revenue, and called for an independent investigation into Tory decisions since 4 May.
His figures were challenged by the Leader of Northumberland Labour Group Grant Davey as "a crude attempt to cover up dodgy decisions since May and he went on to accuse the Tories of ignoring the auditors report released in the last week. He went on to say that" all members in attendance have access to the external auditors statement and letter to Council and that the governments external auditor to the Council was satisfied that the base budget was correct. Yet you have displayed figures without last years comparable figures being made available for all to see. What are you trying to hide?"
He then said I "will take you back to May this year and remind you of your opening speech to Council".
"Cllr Jackson, you thanked Steve Mason for leaving a strong and stable organisation which would give the new administration time to agree new priorities"
"Are you telling us that officers of the Council mismanaged the accounts and have kept information from the external auditor"?
"Or are you saying that your decisions since May 2017 have led to the dreadful financial position you describe? Residents have a right to know given your report tonight states that jobs and services are at risk so it's time to stop hiding and spinning and come clean with Northumberland".
This contains Cllr Jackson quote on Steve Mason who was allowed to leave under cover of compromise agreement.
£65m Black hole
Cost of Tory decisions since 4 May
1. Scrapping Labour business plans for savings - £30m (It's in the EY report)
2. Stopping move from County Hall - £12m to update County Hall in Morpeth over course of MTFP (next 4 years)
3. Halting Portland Park project and contract - £9m (and rising)
4. Scrapping Arch dividend - £4.8m (It's on the Arch website) https://www.archnorthumberland.co.uk/how-it-works
5. Scrapping Core Strategy - £1.1m (it's in an FOI)
6. New Core Strategy - £1m (estimated more likely to increase)
7. Steve Mason pay off - £1m + (published in Hexham Courant)
8. New deal for 2 day per week CEO - £185,000
TOTAL = £59.085M
Shortfall - £5.915m - is this the cost of the secret investigations into Arch and the council?