Financial transparency, it used to be a necessity.
Public, and indeed private bodies, are required to publish their accounts and financial transactions. For public bodies like Councils this is essential, under the previous Conservative Administrations at Uttlesford this was done with alacrity, professionalism and accuracy, the Auditors‘ comments are an empirical reference to this.
Roll forward two years and residents have no idea of the accounts, investments or spending plans.
The last Conservative Administration at UDC recognised the need for self-help, in other words to generate sufficient income that the Council was not dependant on the largesse of Government (of whatever colour). Against opposition from R4U the Council took a 50% stake in Chesterford Research Park and this has proved a most wise investment with a good return, within the District and with long term security. Moreover at all stages (apart from the confidential negotiation) the Council was transparent about the investment, so much so that the current Cabinet Member for Finance continued to argue it was a bad investment – he has now changed his mind!
Roll forward two years and residents know nothing. We have vaguely heard that a small District Council is investing over £300m in projects that are not in the District (apart from Weston Homes, a roll-over project) and in some cases not even in England! No support for local jobs, no association, no transparency, no reporting of accounts. The whole investment strategy is veiled in secrecy managed by a Board with little experience of acquisition funding and corporate investment.
Apparently (but we can only go on hearsay) this could make us well off, it therefore beggars the question of why Uttlesford tax will rise by the maximum 3.61% especially when neighbouring Councils are not putting up taxes at all, even Essex County Council who have been hardest hit are only raising the social care element of their tax by one and a half per cent. A number of residents are suffering financially from the effects of the pandemic and yet R4U who brag about their secret investments are taxing local residents to the maximum, so much for community support, care and understanding.
Future spending plans are vague, there is no detail for supporting the environment, for local workers including at Stansted airport or for community, just a few R4U vanity projects. Fortunately Essex County Council and indeed the Government are investing heavily in all these areas so Uttlesford residents should be protected
R4U inherited a strong balance sheet and Reserves – they say not so please just follow the link https://www.uttlesford.gov.uk/media/9321/2018-19-Statement-of-Accounts/pdf/SoA-2018-19_approved.pdf?m=637001889760630000 so that you can judge for yourselves. They are exposing the residents of Uttlesford to staggering levels of debt when a number of Councils have gone bankrupt through over investment, they are doing all this with a lack of transparency and no published accounts.
It is time for reflection.