St Edmundsbury Borough Council to dip into its £3.5m reserves pot

West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
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St Edmundsbury Borough Council is to dip into a £3.5 million reserves pot this financial year - as councillors call on the authority to use the money to invest in the community.

Bosses confirmed they will use £460,000 from the council’s general fund reserves to form part of the overall 2014/15 budget but it has not been set aside to fund anything specifically.

The move emerged as some councillors called for the authority to use some its reserves.

Green Cllr Julia Wakelam said: “Obviously its sensible to keep reserves, what counts as less sensible is not to use those reserves to invest in the community a bit more. The council is there to serve the community, it isn’t there to make money for itself.

“You have to balance prudence with actually thinking what are you here for.”

Independent Cllr David Nettleton said the £3.5 million in reserves was ‘a bit over cautious’.

He said: “They’re trying to stick it in just incase, the question is just incase what?”

The council is also consulting on £1.5 million worth of cost saving options as part of their measures to help combat a 48 per cent reduction in Government funding over the next two years. It includes potential cuts to the information building at Bury St Edmunds bus station, which costs £249,000 a year to run.

Referencing the financial backdrop and the issue of reserves, Independent Cllr Trevor Beckwith said: “They keep saying money is put away for a rainy day, it seems it’s been raining quite heavily.

“All we’re getting is cuts to services and people still paying the same council tax.”

He raised concerns about a Government grant which has allowed the council to freeze council tax.

Cllr Beckwith added: “It’s good headlines at the time but I think it will backfire.”

When questioned about St Edmundsbury’s general fund reserves, a council spokeswoman said: “The council takes into account strategic, operational and financial risks when assessing the minimum level of unallocated general fund reserves.

“In March 2014, St Edmundsbury Borough Council members approved a minumum level of £3 million in respect of its general fund balance.

“The authority has plans to reduce the current £3.5 million level by £460k during the current year 2014/15.”