The Council are pretty keen to offload blame for their current debt problems on the Tories for their changes to the allocation of state subsidies, changes that favour Tory councils.
What they don’t point out is that immediately after Tony Blair was first elected in 1997 they lobbied for changes in the self same subsidy allocations, changes that favoured them and disadvantaged Tory led Councils.
That’s life. It’s what happens whenever there’s a change of government. A reward given by the incoming government to faithful party foot soldiers & voters in their heartlands.
It’s predictable, & good local government finance teams will warn Councillors about building up debt based upon income levels in the good years. Governments do change.
The Council are more coy about debt levels built up by a failure to constrain spending and their own cock ups.
For example our beloved Councillor with responsibility for Finance and Crime (Alhtar) has a set patter to blame everyone save the Council and himself. One gem is to refer to still paying interest on debt incurred by the old West Riding Council that was closed down in 1974. It is delivered with mock irony and intended to deflect attention away from their own failings.
What he won’t be talking about unless pressed is the estimated £80m loss incurred by the South Yorkshire Digital Region, a loss that has to be covered by the 4 Councils in the region, suggesting that Rotherham’s share will be between £16m & £20m.
This sum will end up being part of the debt burden.
This project, to build a regional broadband network was always doomed; a vanity folly of Barnsley’s that Rotherham committed to for political rather than strong business reasons.
There is an added twist.
In their wisdom the Digital Region did not to join the national system that allows you to easily change internet supplier. The MAC system.
Due to close mid August 2014, at present they cannot give users a MAC number, meaning that to switch supplier you will have to cancel you current service, and then await it being closed (un-flagged is the technical term) before a new supplier can be appointed.
Best estimates suggest those affected would be without an internet connection for a month. While as yet it is unclear there is a chance that those with internet & phone packages may lose their telephone for the same period.
Imagine the consequences for a business.
There needs to be an explanation as to why the Digital Region were allowed to opt out of an Ofcom requirement for every other internet supplier.
What are our Council doing to protect those SME at risk?