MP Rosie Cooper is challenging West Lancashire Borough Council to justify the money it is keeping in reserve following criticism of Councils by the Secretary of State for Local Government.
The Audit Commission published a report on the levels of Councils’ reserves, which have increased nationally by £4.5 billion over the last five years to £12.9 billion.
Rosie has previously challenged the Conservative-run Borough Council over the level of their reserves in recent years. At times the Council has chosen to put money into its reserves instead of spending funding it has secured. For example in 2009 they put £50,000 from the High Street Innovation Fund into reserves rather than investing into the local high streets that were struggling with empty units.
Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles has slammed councils saying “people would be surprised that councils are hoarding billions whilst some are pleading poverty.”
MP Rosie said:
“I did ask one of the Joint Managing Directors at West Lancashire Borough Council for the total in reserves. She wasn’t able to or wasn’t prepared to tell me. This makes you think they have something to hide.
“I have seen one figure recently that the Council’s total reserves are £17 million. They have been as high as £23 million.
“Given the size of the council and the services its delivers you have to wonder why it is keeping so much money in reserve.
“At the same time as having these reserves the council has refused to support the option of free rail travel for pensioners, it has closed and is demolishing Skelmersdale Sports Centre, whilst Ormskirk Civic Hall and five community centres are threatened with closure.
“West Lancashire Council taxpayers are seeing services slashed, community facilities are being closed and jobs are being cut. Residents are entitled to question whether they are really getting value for money. They are seeing their hard earned money being spent on closing facilities and paying for redundancies, the council won't even provide sand bags when homes are in danger of flooding.
“Increasingly, you have to wonder what West Lancashire Borough Council is for?”