Leader Insists Warrington Council Not 'Recklessly Gambling & Borrowing Cash'

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 3:27pm

By Aran Dhillon - Local Democracy Reporter

Council leader Cllr Russ Bowden says the authority is making wise investments to sustain key services after dismissing suggestions it is ‘recklessly gambling and borrowing cash’.

As part of its strategy, the Labour-run council has been buying commercial properties to boost income through rent as it attempts to offset the impact of cuts in Government funding.

But the approach has come under fire from residents and politicians.

However, Cllr Bowden (LAB – Birchwood) says it is not an ‘unjustifiably risky’ one.

“The idea that we are recklessly gambling and borrowing cash is entirely false,” he said.

“Our property investments alone will generate £7.5 million of surplus income next year, all of which will be used to fund vital council services.

“I totally refute any suggestion that the council cannot manage the risk exposure.

“Every single investment includes a robust risk appraisal, due diligence and third party advice, including the potential risk around Brexit.

“If you don’t take the risk, you don’t get the reward.”

Town Hall chiefs have pointed to the £137 million of cuts and savings they have faced since 2010.

And they say £45 million of savings will need to be made over the next four years to balance the budget – with just over £22 million of savings identified over 2019-20.

But as the authority continues with its approach, Cllr Bowden believes residents can trust those in charge.

He added: “If we hadn’t embarked on our enterprise initiative, then we would not be generating income and would be forced into making wider, more damaging cuts to frontline services, especially those supporting some of the most vulnerable residents in our community.

“So, I am certainly not going to apologise for the approach that we have taken.

“Residents expect the council to manage its finances effectively and to deliver the best possible outcomes with the resources available.

“The evidence shows they can trust us to do this and to continue investing wisely to sustain those services in the future.”

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