• Some EDDC budget revelations

    15th January 2014 | News | Claire
  • Office relocation
    Firstly, in relation to funding allocated for the relocation project, Cllr Graham Troman asked what was meant by two entries of £200,000 for the next financial year and in 2016/17. 

    Officers replied was that this was a “marker” to be set against the costs of moving offices. They added that they had to put something in and expected that it would be offset by a “capital receipt.”

    Cllr Roger Giles did not like this way of planning for finances because there seemed to be no specifics attached to the sum of money, it was an estimate.  He pushed the point quite hard, arguing for some time that it was not the right way to budget.

    Cllr Peter Halse agreed with Cllr Giles and referred to it as “creative accounting.”

    This annoyed some councillors and Cllrs Ian Thomas and David Cox got up to defend the approach.

    It was announced that there would be a major report coming before February’s cabinet and full council on the office move.

    Concerned about possible cuts, especially as it referred to “streamlining,” I asked about the references to a review of the tree team and the development of a tree strategy, on page 30 of the agenda papers. 

    I was very reassured however, when a senior officer as well as scrutiny chairman, Cllr Tim Wood, confirmed that that the review was aimed at strengthening protection for trees. I was even more pleased when another senior officer confirmed (after a question from Roger Giles) that enforcement would also be strengthened for planning issues generally, AND for developers who cut down protected trees.

    The tree task and finish forum was said to be starting soon, which was also good news.

    Civic expenses

    Cllr Roger Giles asked why the civic expenses (page 27 of the revenue and capital estimates book) had received a doubling of its budget.  The answer was that there was no extra cost to the taxpayer, but other items had been included within the budget.

    Feniton flood defence scheme
    I was relieved to see that the EDDC allocation of Feniton’s flood defence scheme remained in the budget for 2015/16.

    Homeless people
    I had been alarmed to see on page 57 of the revenue book that the homeless persons budget had been slashed by a whopping £134,720, to £397,650. I asked how this could be justified at such a time of hardship AND when one of EDDC’s stated priorities was preventing homelessness. Senior officers replied that it was actually a positive thing because they had managed to house people and keep them out of bed and breakfast accommodation.  Officers said that homeless prevention measures were working, so the level of budget was not deemed necessary.

    I said that surely things would only get harder with the government’s benefits cuts. Councillors and officers replied that if the money was needed it would be transferred to the budget.

    This was somewhat reassuring but why take it out in the first place?  Especially as things will only get harder for struggling families as the welfare reform bill bites.

    The budget was voted through with some abstentions. I voted against it.

    It will now go through full council.