Councillors have clashed after it was revealed Burntwood Town Council spent more than £130,000 less than it had expected to.
The figures were debated at a meeting of the authority last week.
A report blamed an “extraordinary year” which had seen many events and initiatives cancelled due to coronavirus.
Cllr Wai Lee Ho, deputy leader of the Conservative opposition group, said Labour had “wasted opportunities” to improve the town.
Cllr Ho said:
“When Labour took control back in 2019, this council increased its part of the council tax, its precept by 7% – Burntwood Town Council took more money from its residents, and now we discover that perhaps we didn’t need to because it over budgeted by over £133,000.
“Some might argue that it’s better to underspend than to overspend. That’s not how money works. There’s such a thing called inflation that erodes the value of money over time.
“It could be argued that not only has this council under the leadership of Labour wasted opportunities to spend £133,000 to improve the lives of the people of our good town, but they have also lost almost £1,000 to inflation by not spending this money.
“I hope the leader takes full responsibility and ownership of this fiscal fiasco without any type of whataboutery – after all, the Labour party have been in control of this council for pretty much two years now.”Cllr Wai-Lee Ho, Burntwood Town Council
But Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of the Labour-led council, said Cllr Ho was electioneering
“Cllr Ho was being completely disingenuous with his mini-rant.
“He omitted to mention, for example, that he had suggested a 10% increase in council tax in a meeting to discuss the budget last year. In the end, he voted for the lower 7% that I proposed as I thought 10% was higher than necessary.
“He must have forgotten that – I hadn’t.
“He also failed to mention the two hour meeting that I, the deputy leader and the town clerk had with him and his group leader the night before to explain in detail why this underspend had emerged, the reasons behind it and the actions we are taking in response, including increasing contingency reserves which he was originally all in favour of.
“He perhaps also forgot the text message he sent to me after the meeting to thank me?
“Instead, he decided to do a party political broadcast-lite in advance of forthcoming elections. He was electioneering for the Conservative party, plain and simple, by having a go at Labour throughout his tirade, though he denies it now.”Cllr Sue Woodward, Burntwood Town Council
“Nothing to gain from electioneering”
Cllr Ho has rejected claims his comments were a case of playing party politics and has asked for his Labour rival to retract her comments.
“I’m very disappointed that Cllr Woodward accused me of electioneering – I was not.
“I am not a candidate in the next elections so I have nothing to gain from electioneering. I am simply being an effective opposition by holding the leader and her team to account.
“I did try to raise a point of order to give Cllr Woodward a chance to retract the accusation but chairman Cllr Diane Evans would not allow it because Cllr Woodward accused me of electioneering during her summary and no other member may speak in the summary or after it.
“I invite Cllr Woodward to retract her accusation.”Cllr Wai-Lee Ho, Burntwood Town Council
Cllr Woodward told Lichfield Live that the town council had worked hard to try and bring an end to political point-scoring.
“When I became Leader of Burntwood Town Council, I was determined to bring an end to the toxic culture under the previous leadership which led to the council being referred to as a ‘basket case’, to be open and transparent, to be inclusive and to work on a consensual basis.
“I am proud of the way we’ve turned this council around and the way all members have been involved in decision-making, including Cllr Ho and his Conservative colleagues, to forward our ambitions for a Better Burntwood.
“Cllr Ho’s politicking did nothing to advance that ambition. Quite the reverse. “Cllr Sue Woodward, Burntwood Town Council