|Hounslow Council Denies 'Awash With Cash' Claim|
Row breaks out as Labour and Conservatives differ over budget
A political row has blown up over claims by Conservative Party councillors that Hounslow Council is "hoarding money while pleading poverty" at the expense of residents. But Hounslow Council has retorted that they are "headline grabbing" and said their approach is about "sour grapes".
The Conservatives have claimed that Council reserves have "shot up" by 58% over the last two years, from £15.8 million to £25 million and that there is underspending in a number of departments, a claim that is rejected by Hounslow Council.
A Conservative proposal to dip into the reserves to fund a 2.46% tax cut, was defeated by the Labour-run Council at its Borough Council Budget meeting this week (February 26).
Chiswick Councillor Peter Thompson, leader of the conservative grouping on the Council said their proposal would have reduced a Band D bill by £30.60 a year and not affected the Council's balancing its books.
"There have also been found to be underspends within departments at the Council and whilst the majority of what Hounslow has in reserves is earmarked for specific purposes, approximately £80m on top of £25m, does not necessarily mean there are plans to spend them," he said.
But Cllr Colin Ellar, Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council, rejected the claims and said it was a Labour administration which had successfully made savings and made the council more efficient.
“Our Conservative group is unique. It must be the only one in the country to be unhappy about a cut in Council Tax. And this after their Leader Cllr Thompson congratulated us for our proposal to cut tax in the local media a few short weeks ago.
“Their approach is just sour grapes. I think residents will see this as a poor attempt at headline grabbing from a Tory group that were in power for four years and did not cut the council tax by a single penny. The Labour councillors are acutely aware of the difficulties our residents face in these hard times so we are doing our best to give people a small reduction in their council tax.
“Suggesting we are awash with cash won’t wash with Hounslow residents, especially when they’ve been on the wrong side of sixty million pounds worth of cuts since the Conservative-led coalition Government got in."
The Conservatives had claimed that the Council Tax cut they proposed could have been funded by the Council Leader’s “Leader and Performance Fund”.
“Labour Councillors so often blame Conservative Councillors for current finances when the Council is “awash with cash” to such an extent that using reserves now would help residents. A 2.46% cut to council tax would pose no risk at all to council balances which could easily be supported by using unspent funds,” said Cllr. Thompson.