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Icelandic investment misgivings

At last Thursday’s Council meeting, Wokingham Liberal Democrats were astonished by the Conservative-led administration’s over-optimism in recouping the £5 million of council tax payer’s money it invested in the collapsed Icelandic banks. The Executive Member for Council Budgets, Anthony Pollock, confidently predicted that the Council expected to recover nearly all the £5 million investment.

Cllr Prue Bray, the leader of the Liberal Democrats on Wokingham Borough Council, said: ‘The Liberal Democrats believe the Conservatives are being over-optimistic given that the court case has not yet taken place in Iceland.  At the very least £750,000 of the original £5 million investment has been lost.  Council tax payers have the right to know what has happened to their money, and the Conservative administration has a duty to be frank with them.’

‘The Council has suggested that eventually payments from Heritable will amount to as much as 85p in the pound.   The latest estimates I have seen from the Local Government Association suggest this to be a bit less – 65p to 78p in the pound. Let’s hope the Executive Member for Council Budget’s optimism is borne out by events.

‘David Lee, the Leader of the Council, previously said that the Council’s priorities would not be affected if the money it had invested in Iceland was lost. The Council is about to embark upon cuts to services as a result of the current financial situation. These would not have had to be anything like so deep had all the Icelandic money been available.’

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Questions over unspent housing maintenance money

At last Thursday’s Executive meeting, Cllr Phil Challis (Liberal Democrat Councillor for Loddon ward) asked a question concerning Wokingham Borough Council’s failure to spend the £451,000 it had allocated for housing maintenance in the last financial year.

Cllr Challis said: ‘I was extremely shocked to learn that £451,000, which is a substantial amount of money, had been allocated to maintaining the Council’s housing stock but was simply not spent. The Conservative-led administration continually remind us about the Council’s financial problems yet, in this case, they failed to spend money they actually allocated. The Council’s failure to award the housing maintenance contract in a timely manner shows just how incompetent they are.

‘Not spending this money on housing maintenance has had a hugely detrimental effect on the quality of the housing stock in our Borough. The Council is letting down the very residents it should be supporting.’

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Care Charges Consultation Conundrum

At last Thursday’s Executive meeting Cllr Prue Bray, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Wokingham Borough Council, asked a question about the Council’s consultation on the proposed changes to charges for day care, home care and respite care.

Cllr Bray said; ‘The Conservative-led Council is currently undertaking a consultation on the proposed changes to charges for day care, home care and respite care, and yet they announced in their budget in February that charges for respite care were increasing from £126 to £575 a week, and that day care would no longer be free.

‘I have always been under the impression that consultation was supposed to happen before the detail was announced, not the other way around. At the time of the Council budget, the Liberal Democrats said that the changes to care charges were both mean-spirited and financially short-sighted. We continue to believe that this is the case.

‘The Conservatives say that vulnerable people are their top priority. They have a very funny way of showing it.’

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Published by Woodley & Whitegates Liberal Democrats, 26 Farriers Close Woodley, Reading RG5 3DD.

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