COUNCIL CASH SPEND ANGER

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MONEY is not being spent on much-needed infrastructure projects throughout the area, including schools and roads, because the council is underspending, claims SNP leader Ian Mackay.

He has slammed East Dunbartonshire Council for spending under half of its budget last year and says that this failure to splash the cash looks likely to continue this year.

Councillor Ian Mackay said: “In September 2011 when the final audited accounts for the year 2010/2011 were published I was surprised to find, despite numerous assurances during the year that the capital budget would be fully expended, that only 48 per cent had actually been spent by the Labour/Conservative administration.

“In a time of economic recession this is absolutely unacceptable and led me to examine the current year’s accounts after six months. Again we were showing serious projected underspends.

Slippage

“It appears that several millions of pounds will not be spent during this financial year on much-needed infrastructure projects like schools and roads.”

At the last policy and resources committee meeting on October 20, Councillor Mackay says he discovered that the council has only spent 13.25 per cent - £2486 million - of its current budget after five months in the financial year.

He added: “In the report they acknowledge that there will be a slippage of £2.045m from this year’s capital budget into next year and have identified £1.9415m of substitute projects.

“Of these projects at least £500,000 cannot be spent this financial year - before March 31, 2012 - such as the fitting out of Southbank Marina in Kirkintilloch.

“To achieve the revised capital budget of £16.706m they will have to increase the spend over the remaining seven months by over 400 per cent - an improvement in efficiency which to most observers is not credible.”

Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “I would challenge Councillor Mackay on a number of his figures and comments and question his understanding of the financial processes involved in delivering the council’s capital programme.

“We are on target to deliver all scheduled school projects this financial year. Weather permitting, all scheduled roads projects will also be completed and this includes major investment in Thorn Road and Iain Road in Bearsden.

“He claims we have spent £2.486m but he knows we have spent over £11m this year on projects such as building the new Langfaulds roundabout, replacing Westerton Farm footbridge and installing new toilets in Boclair Academy in addition to buying a number of properties with a view to generating revenue savings.

“He will be aware of ongoing projects such as the thermal roof replacement at St Andrew’s Primary in Bearsden which will provide hot water and electricity to the school and the re-wiring of Kilmardinny House. These and other works account for a further £4m spend. There is, and will be again, slippage in our capital programme. It’s nothing unusual, it’s part of the process and one which we continually monitor. Project plans can be delayed by a number of things like weather, legal issues or planning matters.

“Councillor Mackay will be aware that one particular £1m project for new bins has been held up because of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the proposed zero waste (Scotland) regulations 2011. I’m surprised that he has chosen to criticise the recently agreed spend-to-save Southbank Marina project. A large proportion of its budget will be spent this year in preparatory works. This sounds to me like another misunderstanding.

“When we see delays coming we ask officers to bring future projects forward - we aim to maximise spend on this year’s £27m capital budget. There are no secrets and the committee papers he sees are also in the public domain. As chair of the council’s audit committee he can ask questions or raise concerns with me, my political colleagues and officers.”