Politicians argue over underspend at council

A PIGGY BANK - PINK PIG.'BROKEN WITH MONEY SPILLING OUT OF IT.'FOR BUSINESS STORY IN SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY.'PENSIONS   INVESTMENTS SAVINGS'PIC PHIL WILKINSON / 'TSPL STAFF.
A PIGGY BANK - PINK PIG.'BROKEN WITH MONEY SPILLING OUT OF IT.'FOR BUSINESS STORY IN SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY.'PENSIONS INVESTMENTS SAVINGS'PIC PHIL WILKINSON / 'TSPL STAFF.

A row of words over financial planning at East Dunbartonshire Council has erupted, with the SNP calling a £19 million underspend ‘‘unbelievable’’.

However, the administration say that the criticism is ‘‘ridiculous’’ and firmly defended its capital plan, which it says was approved with no amendments.

The SNP group leader on East Dunbartonshire Council Ian Mackay attacked the ruling Labour/ Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration for borrowing £20 million to fund its capital budget and then leaving an underspend of £19 million in the last financial year.

He claims the system of underspending and other borrowing caused net interest payments of £410,000 a year.

Mr Mackay added: “This is an unbelievable situation.’’

And he claimed the chance to ivnest in roads and schools has been lost.

“In addition, we lost the opportunity to create 350 construction jobs in East Dunbartonshire by failing to spend our capital budgets. Why borrow money at high rates of interest if you are not going to spend it? It simply defies belief.”

“In these hard-pressed financial times, the fact that we, the public, end up paying huge interest payments to the banks for a loan we do not need really horrifies me and you have to question the competence of an administration who thinks this is acceptable.”

But council leader Rhondda Geekie says that advantages of low interest borrowing have been explained and that the council was investing substantially locally.

Councillor Rhondda Geekie said: ‘‘The borrowing position for EDC has been outlined in a recent seminar and the advantages of borrowing at the low interest rate available at the moment has been spelt out but Councillor McKay does not accept this position.

‘‘We have a ten year capital programme of projects which shows we will have to borrow more in future years and continually monitor to maximise in year spend but in line with the rest of Scotland there will always be underspends. That is why we also use capital spend to save revenue for our services which are under pressure and underfunded by Scottish Government.

‘‘ The comments attributed to myself are ridiculous when what I did give was a detailed explanation of our financial position.

‘‘The suggestion that any funding or jobs are lost to East Dunbartonshire at a time when we are upgrading or building new throughout the area is also ridiculous.’’