Healthy cash reserves at Bedford Borough Council despite government cuts

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Bedford Borough Council has one of the healthiest financial reserves in the region, according to recent research with £12m unrestricted reserves, despite the on-going cuts to local government funding from central government.

The ‘financial snapshot’ of 2018 comes from BBC research and in an interview with the Bedford Independent, elected Mayor of Bedford, Dave Hodgson said: “It is important that we have reserves…and councils shouldn’t raid their reserves for day-to-day expenditure.

“We have had to make savings of £90m per year since I came into office and we have another £25m still to make.”

“Through our major restructuring of senior management we’ve made a saving of £2m a year.” He added: “We’ve moved out of unnecessary buildings and reduced the number of agency foster carers we use.

“It’s not just the big things that have made a difference. We’ve replaced paper towels with hand driers at Borough Hall and stopped providing bottled water at meetings. The small things all add up. Through these savings – and thanks to volunteers – we’ve been able to retain all our libraries, children’s centres and sports centres, unlike neighbouring Northampton.

“The Corn Exchange has operated at a loss for many years,” said Dave. “This year it will break even, thanks to the efforts of the management team.”

“While the BBC’s analysis showed healthy reserves, much is ear-marked for the Transport 2020 project, new vehicles and self-insurance.”

In response, Conservative Cllr Roger Rigby said: “The Council’s general reserve is well above the minimum recommended level set by auditors and the Council has underspent its budget by over £10m in the past 4 years.

“Even though the Council is under pressure due to increased demand, the scale of these excess resources shows that services such as children’s play schemes and the subsidy for post-16 school transport have been slashed unnecessarily by the Mayor for political purposes.

“The Council has also benefitted from significant capital investment from the Government, such as £19m for road decongestion schemes, but it does not suit the Mayor’s narrative to acknowledge this.”

Figures correct at time of publication and subject to fluctuation.