It is now two years since Sutton Coldfield residents voted to create a new council for the royal town. The council collects £1.8m every year through an additional tax on residents — the precept — but how do the councillors decide to spend that money?
As the 2018 local elections approach — the first since council representatives were elected — Birmingham Eastside looks back over the last two years to see how — and if — that money has been spent.
Most of the money in the first year went unspent…
The council received £1.8m in taxes from the precept charged to residents. It budgeted £1.5m for services in its first year — but only spent a third of that.
In the second year it continued to underspend: by the end of March 2018 the council had over £2.2m cash in the bank — only £827,000 of which was reserves ‘earmarked’ for contingencies and other specific purposes.
Where were the underspends most pronounced? The council budgeted £66,000 for Health and Wellbeing, and £20,000 for Cultural and Heritage spending in its first year, but failed to spend any money in either category.
Most other categories were significantly underspent too: only 2% of the budget for Economic Development, for example, was used — and only one budget was used in full: ‘Town in Bloom’.
Only 2% of the Play and Recreation budget was spent in 2016/17
Of the £150,000 budgeted in 2016/17 for Play and Recreation £100,000 was for ‘Play equipment in open spaces’ and £50,000 for park enhancements — only £2,500 was spent.
More money was spent in 2017/18 but the majority of funds remained unused. This time only a third of the Play and Recreation budget – now increased to £347,000 – was spent.
Notably, the budget included a £51,000 by-election contingency. Despite being specifically allocated for that purpose, the budget was not used when Councillor Louise Passey switched parties — an action which normally triggers a byelection.
Overheads account for £4 in every £10 spent by SCTC
£4 in every £10 spent by the council across 2016 and 2017 (no expenditure data is available for 2018) went on staffing and related costs such as office space and elections. Spending with Birmingham City Council on libraries and flowers accounted for another fifth.
By far the biggest single piece of spending was the summer CBSO concert, which alone accounted for £1.30 in every £10 expenditure declared by the council. The data does not include any income generated by the event. Ticket prices are scheduled to double for 2018’s follow up event.
Consultants, a council, and a concert — who gets the most money
The biggest slice of Sutton Coldfield’s spending goes to Birmingham City Council, which handles payroll for Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council as well as services such as libraries and flowers.
Consultants make up two of the top five: LGRC – which provided staff in the first six months of the council and has a five year HR contract with the body that includes training – and Andrew Tucker, who was paid for town planning services. None of the council’s contracts were put out to tender.
Summer concert organisers JA Productions and the CBSO are the two other biggest recipients.
Community grants — not all wards are awarding the same funding
Each ward has the same budget for community grants — £25,000 — but not all of them are spending the full amount. Only Sutton Vesey had spent the full amount as of March 2018, when its award of £2,500 to Friends of Mossy Bank put it £535 over budget.
Sutton Four Oaks has underspent the most, with over 27% of its budget left unspent by the end of the last financial year. No breakdown is available for 2016/17 when 15% of the Community Grant budget was left unspent overall.
A few organisations get most of the money
Just three organisations received 64% of Community Grant expenditure in 2016/17, while five organisations accounted for 70% of spending in the last nine months of 2017 (2018 expenditure data has not yet been released).
Performances Birmingham Ltd received the single biggest grant last year, for the Live In The Lodge music project.
Everything in one infographic
The full story can also be found in this single infographic. If we’ve missed anything please let us know.