MP Rosie Cooper questions West Lancashire Borough Council’s reserve levels following Conservative Secretary of State for Local Government’s criticism of Councils.
“I am pleased that the Secretary of State has raised his concerns about the large reserves being held by Councils. I have questioned the level of West Lancashire Borough Council’s large reserves for a number of years. The most recent figure I have seen shows they have £17 million of council taxpayers money stashed away.
“Unfortunately, when the Communities and Local Government Secretary of State visited West Lancashire he was too weak to deliver his message directly to his Conservative colleagues. He seems happy to call the odds through the national newspapers but when he visited a Conservative Council that has high reserves he didn’t have the guts to openly criticise them.
“This money belongs to the council taxpayers of West Lancashire and should be used in the taxpayer’s interest which includes providing help and services where it is needed for example with flooding help. Instead, this Council continues to refuse to support the option of free rail travel for pensioners; they have stripped Skelmersdale of any Olympic legacy by closing Skelmersdale Sports Centre; and are planning to close Ormskirk Civic Hall and five other community centres. Given this poor record you have to wonder why it is keeping so much money in reserve.
“It was disgraceful that during the terrible weather the Council wouldn’t provide sand bags for homes in direct danger of flooding. But even after that blunder they had to be shamed into providing £5,000 to help residents set up local flood action groups to help protect homes from flooding in the future. If it only costs £5,000 to help residents in their hour of need, I would have thought it a ‘no brainer’ and they would have done it straight away rather than having to be shamed into it!
“I find it even more astonishing that the Council recently announced a £500,000 underspend for the current financial year! This is a Council that continues to cry poverty when this half a million could’ve been used to protect residents’ services.
“I have said it many times, given the size of the Council and the services it delivers you have to wonder why its reserves continue to be so high.”