Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council has failed to spend almost half of its total budgeted money in its annual budget for the first four years since the council was formed.
In the town council’s 2019/20 accounts, out of its £1.86m annual budget, £1.3m was spent on local services, leaving £0.5m budgeted for spending unspent.
The figures come after Birmingham Eastside revealed that Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council had failed to spend over a third of its budgeted funds in its 2018/2019 accounts.
- Read: Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council criticised for failing to spend over third of budgeted funds
- This is what Sutton Coldfield Town Council has spent its money on
Money continues to be left unspent…
Birmingham Eastside analysed four years of council accounts in which it found more than £3.7m was left unspent, almost half of the £7.9m total budgeted for local services.
Keep, suspend or scrap the precept?
Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council collects an additional £1.8m from residents with an additional tax, the ‘precept’.
Alongside paying council tax from Birmingham City Council, the precept is paid by households who live in the Sutton Coldfield area (£49.96 for a household in the Band D property bracket).
Rob Pocock, the Labour Party Councillor for Sutton Vesey said:
“Some things have got to change. The clear majority want to invest the money and pay the precept and they want the precept to be used for the benefit of people in Sutton Coldfield.
“It’s not being used because the town council political leadership is deciding that they rather have a stand-off against Birmingham City Council rather than do a deal and form a partnership with the city council.”
Councillor Simon Ward (Con, Sutton Four Oaks), the Leader of Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council said:
“In the early days of any organisation, building a level of reserves for the council is essential.
“We will be positive, watchful and responsible in how the precept money is spent by the town council. There is a clear direction on where the council wants to go to make it a better place for residents.”
In the Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council 2016/17 budget report, it had planned to have £850,000 in total reserves on hand but now has nearly quadruple that due to a lack of spending.
In the first three years since the town council was formed, it had underspent its annual budget by £1.1m, £1.3m and £687,080 respectively.
More than two-thirds of budgets for local services left unspent
More than two-thirds of budgets designated for local services were left unspent in the 2019/20 council accounts.
Which services have seen noticeable underspending within the town council’s annual budget? Sutton Coldfield Town Hall had budgeted £75,000 for the Town Hall. It spent none of that.
With the A Better and Safer Environment service, nearly one-fifth of the money budgeted had been spent by the council, leaving over four-fifths of the budget unspent.
The Town Centre Regeneration and Enhancing Sutton Park services were the only two local services within the town council that had fully spent their allocated budgets for the financial year.
Coronavirus and future council budgets
Many people in the town have lost jobs or businesses due to the pandemic. Opposition councillors are calling for more support and investment from the council to help people find new jobs.
Cllr Pocock (Lab, Sutton Vesey) said:
“Sutton Coldfield Town Council could become a real hub if there is investment being put into this post-COVID.
“The town council could be really creative in helping people find jobs in the new economy which includes digital, creative, arts and the media, that’s where the jobs of the future are going to lie in.
“Jobs are a big issue for the council along with the environment too, which everyone is recognising. Also, the social integration is vital to the strength of our community and everyone wants to see community cohesion in what we do by bringing people together within the town council.”
Cllr Ward (Con, Sutton Four Oaks) said:
“What we can do as a town council from a micro level is regenerate the town centre. Town centres like ourselves are suffering all across the country.
“We have put together a new masterplan for the town centre, which will make it suitable for the next 50 to 100 years. Having a town centre that is vibrant is the main vision post-COVID and I’m determined to deliver this for residents in the town.”
Birmingham Eastside has approached the Leader of Birmingham City Council Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End) for a response but he declined to comment.