Dear Secretary of State,
First may I thank you for responding to the concerns raised by Tamworth and Cannock councils regarding the proposal by Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council to “top-slice” 15% of our disabled facilities grant. Thanks to the response of your officials, we will now be receiving the full amount due.
The second reason for writing to you is to ask for the DCLG’s guidance on whether it is appropriate for Tamworth Borough Council to impose an additional charge for emptying the Green Bins after having already set the annual budget. Back in January when the Tamworth budget was being put together, we were informed that Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council planned to withdraw the recycling credit covering green waste. Even our local Conservative council leadership were unhappy about such a proposal and subsequently the Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council withdrew the proposal. However, at the annual budget setting meeting of Tamworth Council, I asked the Conservative Leader of the Council what he would do when Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council changed their minds and he said he fully expected that the county council would do so immediately after the election and therefore Tamworth’s budget contained sufficient contingency to cover the withdrawal of the subsidy. Nevertheless, in April, Tamworth Borough Council’s Conservative controlling group introduced additional charges for green bin collection from the start of 2018, i.e., within the current budget year. Some would argue this constitutes a “Supplementary Rate” and I would value your opinion on this. Nevertheless, I share the view of many residents that this is not fair as the cost was already covered in the Council Tax charge for the coming year.
As Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council is a major precepting authority, and would therefore fall under Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003, may I ask your officials to investigate the “robustness” of the budgeting process undertaken by the Chief Financial Officer in the setting of the budget of Staffordshire County Council for 2017/18. On the day of their Budget debate, County Cllr Sheree Peaple queried a line in the budget providing for savings of £2 Million to be achieved by a proposed transfer of care obligations to the NHS, stated to be due to the provisions of the Care Act – on the grounds that the responsibility referred to did not exist in the Act. She was assured that the relevant budget line was correct in the papers presented to the meeting. However, by the same evening, she received notice from the responsible officer that she was correct and that the wrong explanation had appeared in the budget, and that the money was going to be saved because of other agreements reached with NHS providers, though no details were supplied. Given this and the widely held view, in Conservative and other ranks, as above, that the Green Waste credit would also be withdrawn after the election can it really be said that a robust balanced budget was presented by Staffordshire County Council or have they failed in their legal obligations under the act?
I understand that other councils are raising the issue of the proposal by Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council to charge for DIY waste and I look forward to hearing whether the DCLG confirm that it is not an appropriate charge to make, even if it were possible to determine how to administer such a charge.
I look forward to receiving your views on these matters.
Cllr Dr Simon Peaple
Leader of the Opposition, Tamworth Borough Council