A stark example of the incompetent manner, in which the Labour Party have run our local council has been seen recently in the extraordinary admission that Bury MBC overvalued its investment in Manchester airport by almost £15 million.
As a result, Bury Town Hall has wiped £14.8 million from its balance sheet as originally reported in its own accounts for the year ending March 31, 2022.
For a local authority like Bury that has over many years proved so spectacularly incapable of balancing its budget and the most basic fiscal competence, should we be surprised?
These are not new problems. It was reported in February 2020 that errors in Bury’s accounts had cost the Council almost a third more in fees from external auditors. Problems with the way the council valued its property were blamed for the two-month delay in signing off the accounts which led to the extra costs. Bury Labour never learn from their mistakes, and I remain both astonished and appalled at their prodigious ability to waste taxpayers' money.
This historic lack of basic competency has impacted how we deliver services to some of the most vulnerable in our community. Bury Council ran up a huge deficit in the High Needs Block of approximately £27 million by 2021 leading to an agreement with the Government called Project Safety Valve in January 2021 to improve SEND services and outcomes for children, young people and their families.
Improvements have been made, but it is clear the scale of the need to change the culture in Bury was underestimated. The Council were very slow to adopt the SEN reforms and the 2014 Code of Practice and in its 2017 Local Area SEND inspection in both 2017 and 2019 was issued with a written statement of action.
I will do everything I can to ensure Bury residents with SEN and disabilities have the best range of support services and am proud that the Government have agreed to fund two new SEND schools to meet need. We must all work together to eradicate this deficit as it poses a direct risk to the Council’s solvency going forward.
In October 2021 the Government announced £20 million of levelling up funding to support the regeneration of Bury town centre. The project, including the construction of a Flexi Hall adjacent to Bury Market should have been completed by 2024. Delays in implementation by Bury Council mean construction will not even begin until late 2024.
In the same period, Portsmouth Council were provided with an equal level of funding and have since built and completed a huge extension to their international cruise ship terminal. For the good of local residents, Bury’s Labour Council cannot continue in this manner.
There is much more I could write but Bury Labour’s lack of ability is pushing our Council to the brink. I do not want to see Bury follow the likes of Birmingham Council into bankruptcy but to do this Labour politicians in our Borough must develop a basic level of competency and the ability to adequately manage their own budget and accounts.