Warrington Liberal Democrats call for greater cross-party co-operation and more transparency and openness when the new Warrington Council Leader and Deputy are in place, writes Finance Spokesperson Cllr Ian Marks.
Local councils up and down the country are under intense financial pressure due to government cuts. According to the Local Government Association, there has been a 60% cut since 2010. Councils are having to look at redundancies and a pause in filling vacancies to make ends meet. The Public Finance body and the Institute for Government claim public services are in a ‘doom loop’ with permanent crises burning out staff and preventing long term planning.
One in ten County Councils are facing bankruptcy due to rising demands on children’s services and adult social care. Ninety-nine percent of local councils have not received an auditor’s opinion on their 2022/23 accounts by the prescribed deadline, and 900 sets of accounts going back to 2017 remain unaudited. The backlog dates back to the scrapping of the Audit Commission in 2015 and its replacement by private firms.
Birmingham is facing a £1 billion bill due to its failure to implement Equal Pay legislation. Luckily Warrington doesn’t face this problem because one of the first things I did when I became Council Leader in 2006 was to implement this legislation after years of neglect by the previous Labour administration.
Sadly, the local Conservative Council Group spend all their time knocking Warrington and have nothing positive to say. They seem incapable of understanding that the Council has had to make investments to earn money to pay for vital public services. We would never have invested in the energy company and the bank because we believe that these investments are outside a Council’s expertise, but we do support loans to housing associations, solar farms and regeneration in the town. All political parties should be sharing ideas to help the Council through these turbulent times.
Group Leader Cllr Bob Barr adds: The immediate standing down of the Council Leader and Deputy has created more uncertainty. While I disagreed with them on several matters, I know they were always committed to the best interests of the town. We have been critical of the lack of openness and transparency at the Council. I sincerely hope that the new leadership will take a more inclusive attitude towards this. At the last Council we expressed concern, along with the Conservatives, about public perception on conflicts of interest when senior officers and councillors are appointed to the Boards of bodies such as Warrington’s Own Buses and Wire Regeneration. This policy must be explained and reviewed.