At tonight’s meeting of the Hertsmere Borough Council Executive, Opposition Leader Cllr Jeremy Newmark exposed an embarrassing weakness in the Council’s public consultation around the authority’s £64 million pound budget.
The budget proposals were tabled by Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr John Graham who told the Executive that there had been a public consultation.
Cllr Newmark pointed out that according to the published timetable the public consultation was still ongoing. The public had been told by the Council that the consultation deadline was midnight on 14 February 2021 – over four days after the Executive finalised the budget. It was further pointed out that 14 February was the day before the budget papers are printed and tabled for the annual Budget meeting of the Council.
Cllr Newmark also noted that the public consultation had been removed from the budget timetable published in the papers for the Executive.
Cllr Newmark said: “By agreeing a budget for recommendation to Council before the public consultation ends, the Executive risk giving the impression that the consultation is mere window dressing. You can’t call it a serious consultation if you table your final proposals before that consultation is over.”
Newmark also questioned the last minute addition of a recommendation that the Council use its role as owner of Elstree Film Studios to seek to cut operating costs at the world renowned Council asset. He pointed out that the report presented to the Executive was misleading, highlighting that it listed the £1.55 million paid to the Council as a cost rather than income.