Fylde's Accounts 2005/2006
Financial incompetence - that's the only way
to describe how Commissar John Coombes has made yet another mess of managing our money again this year.
If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny. If his wanton mis-management hadn't caused such hardship and worry for people on low and fixed incomes, by demanding more Council Tax
than was needed, it might raise a smile. If it didn't mean he's squirreling our Council-Tax away into his secretive slush-funds outside the normal spending accounts - so no-one
(apart from counterbalance readers and those with a local authority accounting degree) can see what's going on - it might be worth a grimace.
As it is, its a tragedy.
Queen Elizabeth (Oades) of Kirkham described it the worst meeting she had been to, and "A shambles" Others have echoed this sentiment. The special meeting to approve the
accounts was held with little fanfare at the Fylde Rugby Club (maybe to show they are now 'trying' harder?) and one Councillor told counteralance that the event was videoed
- as a prelude to introducing webcasts from their wbsite. Based on what we heard, we suspect it will be 'edited highlights' rather than the full unexpurgated version.
You'll remember the cries of "We're heading for a deficit of £700,000 this year" when the Politburo Cabinet was screwing money out of the budget last Autumn. (see 'We're
in the Money' and 'Cooking the Books')
Well, after closing Kirkham baths, threatening to close St Anne's swimming pool, chopping the tourism budget by £77,000, closing public toilets, cutting £36,000 from the
Citizen's Advice Bureau grant (resulting in its
closure and the loss of much-needed debt counselling help for people in trouble), and robbing £205,000 worth of pensioners of
bus pass money given to him by the Government, he has the nerve to say he made a surplus of £339,000.
So he could have paid the grant to Citizen's Advice Bureau, AND provided free bus travel for all Fylde's pensioners and STILL had almost £100,000 left.
Not only did he declare a surplus of £339,000, but before doing that, he salted away another £529,000 into his 'off-balance-sheet' Earmarked Reserve accounts.
So all told, he slid over three-quarters of a million pounds out of the revenue accounts and into his 'back-pocket' funds. See 'Salting it Away'
for more details. He now has a General Reserve of £1,114,000 and Earmarked Reserves of £2,192,000.
Altogether, this is £3.3 million sitting in his 'back-pocket' - all of it outside the Council Tax he collects from us all, and uses for his day-to day spending.
So what else did he spend our money on?
Well, he paid Councillors £220,000 in allowances and expenses, that's up from £211,000 last year, and £174,000 the year before. See Double your
Money for more details of how the Commissar's own pay has doubled.
Then he donated £15,000 to promote the economic prosperity of West Lancashire, and £25,000 to the Fylde Local Strategic Partnership, who already had an unspent surplus of
income over expenditure at the end of its own 2004/05 year of £127,000.
What else? Oh yes, over the last two years, he has spent £250,000 on Lytham jetty, you remember, this is the wooden structure that, having been rebuilt so flimsily by the
Council, floated off to Freckleton Marshes on a high tide last year.
He has also managed to spend £148,000 on 'Office Accommodation' despite the fact that no new building has been done.
Finally, the accounts also show that money owed to the Council has gone up from £4.9 million to £7.8 million, and during the year, the Council wrote-off £67,000 that was
owed to it by various people who hadn't paid their dues.
And of course, public toilets are still closed, bits of our gardens are sold off, listed shelters on St Anne's main Promenade are boarded-up and have haven't been touched for
over two and a half years.
With this level of financial incompetence - how on earth can he expect to be taken seriously, let alone lead a party hoping to be re-elected in a year or so.
Dated: 28 June 2006