A Lancashire MP has been told to get his sums right after claiming Lancashire County Council is keeping back £400m in reserves for a rainy day.
Paul Maynard, the Tory MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, intervened in a parliamentary debate to demand why the council is keeping back such reserves.
He asked Labour’s Shadow Transport Minister Daniel Zeichner: “When will it rain to such an extent that we will need the rainy day fund?”
But his comments have been dismissed by county Labour bosses who have now invited him to visit Preston’s County Hall to see for himself the projects cash is earmarked for, the reserves which are legally ring-fenced and just when the cupboard will be completely bare.
The storm centres not so much on the current level of reserves, but whether the cash is already “spoken for”. Deputy leader County Coun David Borrow predicted: “The reserves will run out at the authority in two years time on the basis of the existing 2016/17 budget and figures agreed so far for 2017/18 ... If there’s anything Mr Maynard can do to improve our financial position by speaking to (Chancellor) Mr Osborne that would be very much appreciated.”
In January, the council had reserves of £424.650m but of these some £95.951m is held for schools and has restricted use.
That left a pot of £328.699m with an additional £30m added to reserves in 2015/16. The Council says that cutbacks in local government funding mean it is now using reserves to safeguard key services, prevent further cuts and help finance City Deal projects.
It will have spent £99m from the reserves pot in 15/16, £148m in 2016/17 and £54.7m in 2017/18, leaving a £36m County Fund for contingencies and £20.613m service reserves by March 2018.