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Fylde's Accounts 2005/2006

Fylde's Accounts 2005-2006Financial 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


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