Labour proved right on using funds for free parking

By Mick Scrimshaw on December 5, 2019

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You may remember that earlier this year on behalf of the Labour Group of Councillors on Kettering Borough Council, I proposed bringing in two hours free parking for Kettering Town Centre, as an emergency measure to help kick-start the retail sector, until we moved to Unitary and the new council would have the job of harmonising car parking charges across the new area of North Northamptonshire.

I proposed funding the loss of income, which would have been up to £390,000, by a one-off use of the £3.8m which has sat in the council’s earmarked reserves for Economic Development, of which not one penny has been spent in over ten years!

I was told wrongly, by a leading Conservative Councillor, that that money could not be spent as it was being used elsewhere for internal borrowing.

Internal borrowing is a cheap option that the council uses instead of taking out external loans. It is a practice that I fully agree with and accept is an efficient part of the council’s Treasury Management function. However, I totally disagree that it was Internal borrowing that stopped the pot of reserves being used, partly because the council’s own rules state that Treasury Management is there to help support the work and ambitions of the council. Not to tie its hands!

I’ve spent the last few months explaining to anybody that would listen, exactly how Treasury Management works and that it should not have been used as an excuse to reject our proposal.

If they didn’t like our suggestion, which is the truth, they should have simply had the strength to say so and not try to hide behind a complicated financial system, which clearly they didn’t fully understand themselves.

Anyway, going back to the £3.8m pot of money that is apparently not available to be used! The council’s leadership will, at their December 4th Executive Committee meeting, agree to spend £2.2m of it to match fund a central grant for heritage improvements for the town centre! So perhaps this money is actually available after all? Sort of proves my point I think!

Mick Scrimshaw is the Leader of the Labour Group at Kettering Borough Council, the Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance at Northamptonshire County Council. He has a public record of standing up for Kettering as a County Councillor for the Northall division in Kettering, Northants and since May 2015, a Borough Councillor for the William Knibb ward. He is a keen cyclist and also runs a family business with his wife.

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