Huge Cuts Required By Canvey Island Town Council If They Are To Remain Solvent

If you were thinking of applying for that Warden position: don't look upon it as a long-term job.

SERIOUS DOUBTS are being raised today over the Canvey Island Town Council’s ability to stage the Armed Forces Day Parade planned for June 26th. Furthermore, other events planned for the summer have also been brought into question. 

Last week, the Town Council was heavily criticised by Castle Point Borough Council’s Regeneration Officer for being shambolic in its presentation of events; but it is not the organisational skills exhibited by councillors that are now coming under scrutiny. 

The Town Council’s finalised 2010/11 budget, obtained by this Blog in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request, reveals that the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) led regime, in just three years, has brought Canvey’s new Town Council to the brink of bankruptcy. 

The figures show that for every pound paid by residents in addition to their Castle Point Council Tax, over 78 pence is absorbed by Town Council overheads. That leaves just 22 percent of its annual £265,941 precept to be spent on community and environmental projects (some £58,000); but those two budgets currently total £280,100 – leaving a massive £222,100 shortfall (equivalent to a hike for residents in their Town Council levy of around 84 percent). 

In this, its last year before re-election, the Town Council (TC) plans to spend £6,000 on its Armed Forces Day; £35,000 on ‘Summer Fun’; £10,000 on Citizen Awards; £10,000 on an ‘Environment and Conservation Event;’ £20,000 on Christmas Events and Lighting; and £5,000 on other events – together totalling £86,000 and, alone, costing £28,000 more than the remaining 22 pence contributions made by residents. 

But there is more bad news for islanders. Already forced to plunder the TC’s reserves to meet its public relation’s programme, the costs of its Environment and Open Spaces Projects have also called upon that rainy-day fund. £10,000 is to be spent on Seafront Gardens; £11,000 on the Skateboard Park and Bungalow; £3,000 on Bumblebee Park; and an eye-watering £130,000 on Canvey Lake. Then there are the Street Lights, £15,000; and the inevitable High Street Planters and Hanging Baskets for £8,000 and £4,000 respectively. 

To meet its obligations, the Town Council is calling upon over £220,000 of reserves, leaving just £160,000 for 2011/12, and of which half is earmarked (£10,000 for election expenses – in addition to the £10,000 in the budget; £10,000 for allotments; £5,000 for Tewkes Creek; £5,000 for Seafront Gardens; and £50,000 for Canvey Lake). 

The Town Council’s financial position will be of little comfort to those who thought the TC would save the island’s Concord pool. The facts are that the Town Council, without a substantial rise in the TC levy paid by islanders, does not have the funds to maintain it. 

Next year, an incoming administration will have just £58,000 (from its annual precept) and £80,000 in reserve with which to keep the Town Council afloat. In practise, no responsible administration is likely to touch those precious reserves, so the question is: where do you find cuts amounting to over £200,000? 

It is not an easy question to answer. The fact is that the situation arises from the CIIP’s insistence on taking-over island facilities from the Borough Council – and the only logical solution appears to lay in asking that authority to take them back. 

If the political will were there, £211,000 could be saved immediately by the TC abandoning its Canvey Lake plans (£130,000) and cancelling its programme of Christmas and Summer Events (£81,000). In addition, having the Borough Council take-back responsibility for Canvey Lake would also relieve pressure on the reserves – releasing an ominous £50,000 burden on next year’s administration. But the CIIP appears intent on maintaining its strangle hold upon islanders’ purse strings in pursuit of its separatist strategy. (Castle Point Borough Council can only accede to a motion, seconded and passed by the TC, to increase islander’s Town Council levy). 

On the face of it, there are some substantial annual savings to be found in the TC’s salaries budget, which has soared from £62,846 in 2008/09 to £95,000 in 2009/10 and 2010/11. No local Town Council, it appears, spends much more than £60,000 on staff salaries – and few members claim allowances or expenses. Indeed, this Blog’s FOI request revealed that: ‘At its inception, Council resolved not to pay allowances and this has been repeated in each subsequent year. Councillors may claim travel expenses, but have never done so.’ 

However, the 2010/11 budget reveals otherwise. Included in the overheads section is £6,000 for members’ allowances, travel and subsistence. And there is an additional amount of £3,000 for members’ expenses and training. A total of £9,000. 

It appears that CIIP councillors have voted themselves a substantial pay-rise, in their last year of office, as a reward for their financial incompetence…

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2 Responses

  1. It is evident that CIIP councillors just look upon islanders as a never-ending supply of money to fulfill their separation plans.

    When everyone else is trying to combat the effects of recession, government is introducing swingeing cuts, and families forego luxuries and entertainment, the town council embarks on a spend, spend, spend campaign in a desperate attempt to ensure its re-election next year. And there is nothing that islanders can do to stop them.

    So this summer, and this coming Christmas, we are all invited to celebrate the Town Council – and we will all be picking up the bill for it next year when we each pay over our £50 – on top of our Council tax bills.

    If ever there were a reason for islanders to protest, surely this is it?

  2. Have I missed it?

    Has the Echo plastered this story of financial mismanagement across it’s front page?….

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