Warrington Lib Dem News

Stop Talking the Town Down!

IM
4 Feb 2024
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We are angry with the repeated, often incomplete and inaccurate, reports in the media, fed by local informants, about Warrington being on the verge of bankruptcy. This is bad for the town’s reputation and must be causing damage.

We need to put this in context of what’s going on in the wider world. I am an optimist by nature but there’s not much to be optimistic about at present. Who knows when and how the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East will end. We have the frightening prospect of a possible second term for President Trump. The effects of climate change are getting worse all the time. Interestingly two of our Tory Councillors have gone on social media recently showing off their climate change denying credentials.

The UK economy is in a poor way after years of Tory misrule. Our Gross Domestic Product is predicted, by the IMF and OECD, to grow more slowly than that of most other G7 countries. Brexit has been a disaster, and a recent study estimates that losses from leaving the EU could be up to £125 billion a year. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation claims that six million people are in deep poverty.

Public Sector finances are in a desperate state. According to the head of the Local Government Information Unit, nearly fourteen years of cuts have left forty councils on the brink of collapse adding to the seven already declared bankrupt. Despite £600m of emergency funding from the Government, a tenth of what the Local Government Association says is needed, there are many councils which may get through this budget but will be in serious difficulties next year unless drastic measures are taken.

A cross-party committee of MPs has warned of a financial crisis with even well-run councils at risk of going bust. More than forty Tory MPs, sadly not including Warrington South’s, have written to the Prime Minister appealing for emergency bailouts.

I understand that Warrington is not on the verge of bankruptcy despite finances being very tight. It is not ready to issue a so-called Section 114 notice which would mean it was going bust, despite what you read in the media. The statement in the Risk Register presented to the Audit and Corporate Governance Committee about this is just a statement of the obvious and tells us nothing new. The Committee papers also remind us that last October someone leaked to the press a confidential letter from the Government about governance in Warrington. The Government has still not allowed this to be released and who leaked it remains a mystery.

The Liberal Democrats are broadly supportive of the Council’s investment policy. The interest made from these investments helps us to maintain vital public services. However, we have repeatedly said we would not have invested in a bank or an energy company because these were too risky. We never hear anything positive from the Tory opposition. It is all negative and knocks the town and our officers. We may be pleasantly surprised when it comes to the Budget Council meeting at the end of the month, but I doubt it.

We should be spreading the good news, such as that in the 2024 Centre for Cities report, Warrington is shown to perform well on most economic measures.

Cllr Ian Marks is Warrington Liberal Democrats’ Finance Spokesperson