Information released by the Audit Commission suggests that Eastleigh Borough Council offers poor value for money for taxpayers when compared to other councils.
Spending per head on many key services is at best average or below average. Total net spend per was £358 per head last year compared to an average £1,104 per head for all councils in England
However EBC is in the top 5% of highest spending councils when it comes to acquiring land and property and are on the way to amassing a £90 million portfolio financed largely on credit.
However the data also shows Eastleigh outperforms the majority of councils when it comes to spending on transport and also has administration costs that are well below the average, significantly less money is spent on collecting council tax for example.
A ‘value of money’ tool on the Audit Commission’s website enables visitors to compare their local council spending data to other councils nationally or locally or statistical similarity.
Browsing the data it’s easy to see how the council have maintained its ten year record of below inflation Council Tax increase through below average spending on services and income from the property portfolio. In February Council leader Keith House said of the council’s record of Council Tax:
“This has been achieved in large part, due to our record of sound financial management, and our programme of investments in property”
The council has been aggressively increasing its commercial property portfolio which at December 2011 was valued at almost £53 million – and has been added to since.
The portfolio includes hotels, pubs, shops and office blocks.
The council is also still trying to proceed with the purchase of the Aegeas Bowl (formerly Rose Bowl)cricket ground and finance the building of a luxury hotel on the site at a total cost of £36 million.
While the council is happy to finance the building of a multi -million pound hotel for a private company Audit Commission figures show that spending on grants to renew and maintain the private housing stock is in the lowest 10% of councils while income from council loans to householders for repairs have rocketed.
In the2009/2010 audit letter the audit commission described the council’s plan of borrowing in order to expand its property portfolio as ‘ambitious’ and warned:
“The level of borrowing is rising significantly and the Council will need to continue to keep under review the financing and affordability of its capital programme”
In the latest audit letter published in January the audit commission further warned that the council should :
“take a prudent view on the future movement of interest rates; and recognise the risks to future rental and lease income at a time of increasing economic uncertainty.”
Why not take a browse n the Audit Commission – if you find anything interesting- why not share it on here?
See also: Olson warns on council borrowing