Peterborough finance chief ‘taken aback’ by Labour leader’s borrowing claims - LETTER
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I was therefore somewhat taken aback that Cllr Nawaz decided to double down in his letter last week.
I do not intend to address all the obfuscation in his long missive but certain comments do require a response and will illustrate my point.
Cllr Nawaz accepts the benefit of lending money out at higher rates (‘I do not dispute this simple economic fact’). He then states success (with the loan of £23m to the social enterprise Empower) depends on creditworthiness and: ‘has caused much agony and sleeplessness nights’.
I am not sure to what or whom he is referring as it is fully secured and has resulted in our city leading the country in private solar power with c.£3m income to support services. Indeed, when the loan was agreed, Labour councillors supported it.
He then states his point is ‘simple’, that ‘the council is not a bank’, ‘it should not be acting like one’ and we should not ‘pretend to be a funder to private companies’.
Yet Labours ‘alternative budget’, presented at Full Council on March 4, proposes multiple loans to private businesses. A total about-turn in six days must be some sort of record.
Cllr Nawaz then suggests our books are not ‘balanced’. As someone who sits on Audit Committee he should know that is untrue with our 2020/21 budget presented to Full Council just last night. He would have had those papers when he wrote to you.
Indeed recently we were the only local council to have our accounts signed off on schedule including both ‘strong financial management’ and a good ‘value for money’ opinion.
I accept my statement that Cllr Nawaz is a member of that committee was potentially misleading. Yes, he served on it until May 2019, is a reserve member, and has sat opposite me at the last two meetings.
Finally, regarding Grant Thornton, he states that he does ‘criticise unnecessary expenditure whilst....acknowledging the benefit of professional advice’. May I suggest that asking questions when it was first explained to him, and before it was agreed, would have been more constructive?
There has been considerable concentration by Cllr Nawaz and some members on our use of experts in our financial transformation work (details reported to every Audit Committee) and whilst I understand this, I feel it distracts from who are the real experts in our organisation and that is our staff.
None of the savings that have been identified by Grant Thornton would have been possible without the support and expertise of our own officers. It is them who should be congratulated for helping the council to set a balanced budget for 2020/21 so it can continue providing good quality services for our residents.
Councillor David Seaton
Cabinet Member for Finance
Ward Councillor, Hampton Vale