In November Conservative councillors proposed a Motion that will mean Christmas has come early for the people of Saddleworth if it is delivered upon.
However, the commitments of the Motion are now in the hands of the Liberal Democrats who control the Parish Council and it’s Finance Committee. Despite speaking against the Motion, which commits SPC to balancing books, they voted for it, and it passed.
In the wording of the Motion, which was proposed by Cllr Woodvine, the Conservatives started: “This Parish Council finds itself in an unsustainable financial situation, which has been accelerated and exacerbated by Covid-19, leaving exposed existing financial causes for concern that now need to be addressed.”
In his speech Cllr Woodvine warned that money should NOT be wasted.
“As elected representatives we are here to serve those men and women; and with the money they send us better the villages and hamlets in which they live, providing services that they need and actually use.
Alarm bells should be ringing - something is wrong. It seems the people of Saddleworth are not seeing any benefits for their money nor that money being spent on them or where they live.”
The Civic Hall (to staff and service) costs Saddleworth £158,290 per annum, and was only projected to make £92,700 this year meaning a 41% LOSS or £65,590 in both percentage and cash terms.
It has a value, as of 2010, of £1.4million.
A majority of the precept - which is paid by hard working tax-payers and increased again this year - should be funding services in Saddleworth, however, it is sadly being spent on covering debts and subsidising a building that is not being used by the very people who are paying for it.
The Council noted to resolve that:
- Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the financial situation has worsened.
- It will balance the books for this year, next year and infinitum, not running a deficit; should this not be possible that an independent audit is done of the Budget, setting out an alternative.
- All options are on the table for discussion no matter how radical and will be heard, discussed and voted upon with courtesy and decorum.
- It must be put on a firm financial footing and avoid raising the precept until all measures to reduce costs and waste have been explored properly and discussed before a Full Meeting.
- Saddleworth Civic Hall must break even by 2021 and make profit going forward.
In his closing remarks, Cllr Woodvine concluded:
“This Motion intends to reform the way SPC manages it’s precept in the future. Maintaining the status quo isn’t always suitable and Parish Councillors have a duty to discuss public money and ensure people are getting value for that money. Leadership in Oldham aren’t keen on Parish councils so we need to ensure we can justify our existence.”
The time has now come to put Saddleworth first and give our Civil Parish special treatment, the treatment it deserves and the treatment it is currently denied by Oldham. It is time to think outside of the box and make changes to preserve a long-term, financially viable future.