Firms’ threat to call council watchdog

Bath street Ilkeston
Bath street Ilkeston

ILKESTOn’s Chamber of Trade is threatening to bring in a national watchdog to investigate the council after it claimed it has not yet been consulted over the setting of this year’s budget.

Members of the organisation, which oversees trade in the town, voted unanimously to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman and ask it to investigate Erewash Borough Council’s ‘lack of transparency’ with its finances.

Chairman David Thorpe said: “The relationship between the chamber and the council is not good.

“They should have it all out in the open – the public, as well as the Chamber of Trade, have a legal right to see the budget and be consulted on it.”

The authority has this week launched a public consultation at www.erewash.gov.uk asking residents to rank council services following a £1.2m cut its budget.

And the council’s director of resources Ian Sankey pledged to talk to the chamber but said the authority will not see a finalised budget until March 3.

“The council will do all it can to minimise the effect of the reduction in Government grants,” he said.

“The council will meet with both Ilkeston and Long Eaton Chambers of Trade, Erewash Partnership and other local business to discuss the budget proposal. The consultation process will take place throughout February.”

Despite those promises, Mr Thorpe says the whole process needs to be looked at.

He said that, according to previous year’s budgets, the council should receive £8m a year in Government cash taken from tax on businesses nationwide.

“What has happened to that £8m?” he asked.

“It could have been spent on improving our town centre but there is no evidence of that.”

He added: “They go through the motions and go out every so often and ask what’s important to you, but that’s a pretty meaningless question when we can’t see where the money is going.”