I know I keep on saying things like ‘you could not make it up’ about Maghull Town Council under its now 21 months of Labour rule but they really are at it yet again. However, this time the self-made crisis ranks as one of the biggest failures of local council governance that you could ever imagine!
It’s a failure to set a budget and legal precept for the financial year 2013/14, indeed a budget meeting for Maghull Town Council has only just been called for the 6th March and according to the Council’s published timetable of meetings a precept will not be confirmed by the Full Council meeting (a requirement of legislation) until 20th March!
So far, all that has happened is that a presentation on a draft ‘work in progress’ budget was given at a Finance Committee meeting by a Council officer on 23rd January. That ‘work in progress’ was not voted on. After that there was mention of a budget for 2013/14 at a meeting on 6th February when we were told by a senior Labour Councillor that the budget was being ‘taken back to the drawing board’. My posting of 7th February refers.
All 10 Parish/Town Councils in our Borough (like those across all of England) set their budgets for the following municipal year before Sefton Council sets its own budget. Such has been the case for generations. This year Sefton Council sets its budget today – 28th February. However, Maghull’s Labour Leaders have, for reasons known only to themselves, not put a budget and proposed precept demand before the Town Council for a decision to be made within the proper timescale. Indeed, with the 1st of March being the usual deadline for a Parish Council to agree a precept, Maghull Council is in a sorry position because it can’t legally call a meeting in time to meet such a deadline. Three days clear notice have to be given of a Parish/Town Council meeting not including the day of the meeting or the day the papers are issued.
I should explain, at this point, that a budget and precept are two different but directly linked matters. The budget, as you would expect is an informed estimation of the Council’s expected income and intended expenditure for the following year. The precept is that part of the income which is demanded from Council tax payers and this is the important matter that has a deadline attached to it.
Surely it must be the case, must it not, that Maghull Council cannot now make any demand upon the Town’s Council tax payers for a precept in 2013/14 because it has failed to make a decision on an amount it wishes to demand from them within the accepted timescale. The positive angle to this farce, at least for the hard pressed Council tax payers in Maghull, could be that Maghull’s Council Tax bills will be much lower than anybody was expecting i.e. NIL payable to the Town Council!
We Lib Dems have been demanding a Council Tax reduction from the Town Council, something that Labour has opposed. However, they may just have delivered the mother of all reductions via the biggest cock-up you could imagine!
This could now leave Maghull Town Council in one hell of a financial and governance crisis and the obvious question that comes to mind is why on earth has the Labour run Council put itself and the Town that it is supposed to be representing in such a position?