Copeland political clash over council’s ‘fragile’ financial situation

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ADVISERS met this week to discuss recommendations from an accountancy firm which was called in ‘due to inadequate financial governance arrangements’.

Grant Thornton Limited made written recommendations to Copeland Council due to its “very fragile financial situation”.

One of the issues facing the council’s finances is its belated financial statements and value for money conclusions for the 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years.

The council also suffered a major cyberattack in 2017 due to a shortage of staff and skills.

READ MORE: Special meeting called to discuss Copeland Council’s precarious financial situation

The auditor now calls on the board to ‘ensure that financial plans for 2022/23 and beyond take sufficient account of financial pressures to maintain the council’s general fund reserves at the required level of £2m’.

They also called for “robust” arrangements, ensuring that the remaining declarations are fulfilled.

A Labor spokesperson said: “After 7 years in the helm and on a platform of independence and financial acumen; not only have the electorate spoken, but the listener has now done so as well. It’s no surprise the mayor chose to delay this meeting until after the election because it’s overwhelming.

“Copeland is just one of six councils in the country where the auditor is so concerned about finances that he has made statutory recommendations.”

But Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie said: ‘Copeland Labor are trying to rewrite history, they have left office with the council needing a government bailout of £2.9m to avoid the bankrupt after leaving a £13.2million black hole in accounts and had more than 30 consultants. performing duties for which they could not recruit or retain staff, they did not have a single qualified accountant on the payroll.

Labor said: ‘Council has another 3 years of accounts to produce, they have not provided accounts on time since coming in. They have destroyed this council and the people of Copeland have nothing to show for it’

But Mr Starkie said: ‘The audit report, which dates from 2018, is a transparent account of the steps we have taken and continue to take to address more than 40 years of Labors financial failure. From a bankruptcy position in 2015, we have taken this board forward, growing its asset base, self-generated revenue of over £4m a year, corporate rate recovery rates and housing tax and filled all vacancies, especially for residents we have cut tax each year and reduced fees and charges each year, embarked on an ambitious investment program including the groundbreaking takeover of Labors, which crippled PFI financially.

“We’ve paid off Labors’ debts and haven’t borrowed a penny. We enter LGR with more reserves than all but one of the six district councils and the lowest borrowing of all but one of the six with only the £5m loan remaining at the council’s cost of £15m interest.

“All of this has been achieved without a single service cut since 2015 and millions invested in improving services and efficiency. The key point is that in seven years Labor has not offered a single alternative or a single successful amendment, they were happy to see every policy I proposed pass while we fixed the mess they left.


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