Civic review has shone light on dark corner of Lichfield District Council’s budget, says Labour leader

A review of money spent on Lichfield District Council’s civic duties has shone a light into a dark corner of the authority’s budget, according to the opposition group leader.

The offices of Lichfield District Council. Pic: Lichfield District Council

The offices of Lichfield District Council. Pic: Lichfield District Council

A report recommending a reduction in the money spent on elements such as a luxury chauffeur-driven car for the council’s chairman is set to go before a scrutiny committee later this week.

The review has also proposed reducing the number of functions attended by the civic leaders.

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward

Labour opposition group leader Cllr Sue Woodward was once of the cross-party group who made the recommendations and says some eyebrows were raised at how money was being spent.

“There’s a lot of cross party consensus on the way forward with this,” she told LichfieldLive. “We certainly overturned a few stones.

“We didn’t completely realise the way civic budget operated – it was essentially in the gift of the chairman to spend much of the budget in the way he or she saw fit without any proper transparency or scrutiny.

“When Lichfield District Council services are under such financial pressure, it was absolutely right that we took whole of the civic budget to the scrutiny committee.

“We’ve looked very careful at what the role of the chairman should be and how they can maximise the impact of any spend on their role for local residents.

“It’s something that hasn’t been scrutinised correctly in the past and has been operating without any member oversight, so I feel we’ve done a good job on a consensual basis going forward with recommendations I hope the Cabinet will agree with.”

A Jaguar XF similar to the model currently used by Lichfield District Council's chairman

A Jaguar XF similar to the model currently used by Lichfield District Council’s chairman

The report will be discussed at a scrutiny meeting this week before going forward to Cabinet, who could still vote to reject the recommendations.

But Cllr Woodward says her Conservative colleagues must make the right choice.

“It’s down to every individual councillor to decide whether more than £50,000 spent on the civic role each year might be better spent on retaining things such as community transport.

“We felt it was important that we looked at every aspect of the civic budget and I hope the Cabinet accept the recommendations.

“We have certainly shone a light into a dark corner of the council’s budget.”

Cllr Woodward said the Labour group would continue to act “responsibly” in seeking the best deal for taxpayers.

“We’ll carry on digging,” she said. “Lichfield District Council is a big organisation with lots of different pots of money being spent in interesting ways.

“It’s the role of a responsible opposition to look at things carefully and see where we can add value for our communities.”

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.