Thanet council is inviting residents to attend sessions aimed at explaining the authority’s accounts.
Council leader Bob Bayford said the hope is to ‘demystify’ the accounts and provide explanation about the process.
Headline topics will include Ramsgate Port and harbour, council tax, reserves and business rates,grant money, housing, borrowing, parking, salaries and pensions and assets.
Council leader Bob Bayford said: “What we want to do is get the message out there that the public can get involved in looking at the accounts, we have been accused of not being transparent but that’s just not true.
“We are being as open as we can be. It is a fact that the accounts are not the easiest read so this is an opportunity for members of the public who have an interest to come in and access the bits they want and have available someone who can explain further to them.
“I am hoping people will get a clear idea of what lays behind some of the figures and they go away with an understanding.”
Among the issues that have raised interest in the accounts for Ramsgate Port. The account document shows a loss of £2.5million for the last financial year but Cllr Bayford says this a ‘paper’ loss.
He said the actual deficit is £460,000, compared to £640,000 for the previous year, with the £2million of the £2,5million being related to ‘non-money’ accounting conventions for assets and depreciation.
Some £630,000 has now been cut from the budget after a decision to no longer keep it ‘ferry ready.’ This reduction includes slashing security costs and axing berth maintenance.
Cllr Bayford said the combined deficit for the port and the isle’s three harbours is £331,000 and that the port losses had been reducing since 2015/16 when the deficit was £1.2million.
He confirmed a feasibility study would begin at the end of next month.
He said: “We are starting the process of scoping it now. It is a big job to look at the port and harbour and identify certain key areas we want people to look at.. We may get experts from a single company or more than one.
“Nothing is off the table but we need to produce a masterplan for the port and harbour.”
He said an option for ferry service was ‘not the expected outcome.’
Access to the accounts
From now until July 12, between 9am and 4.30pm each weekday, any person may inspect the accounts of the council for the year ended March 31, 2019 and certain related documents (comprising books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts). They may also make copies of the accounts and documents. A notice of an intention to inspect should be submitted.
In addition, there will be the evening sessions on July 2,3 and 8th at Thanet District Council offices, Cecil Street, Margate at 6:30pm and 7:30pm. These will be led by the finance team. Attendance must be confirmed in advance.
The evening sessions will involve an overview presentation following by the opportunity to ask questions.
To confirm attendance or notify intention to inspect go to https://forms.gle/q5e65sn4k9S8FJae8
Accounts -some headline figures
Council tax £77million collected with £9.7 million – or 13% – being retained by Thanet District Council. The rest goes to Kent County Council, Kent Police, Kent Fire and Rescue Service plus parish/town councils
Overspend for 2018/19 £1.5million mostly due to £1million increased costs for homelessness and housing benefit and a reduction of £231,000 income from building control and land charges
£3.5 million one-off windfall due to greater retention of business rates as a result of membership of the Kent Business Rate Pilot. Some of this cash is ring fenced for generating growth in the district
Grant money totalling £8million from agencies including the Environment Agency
£2million spend on Disabled Facility Grants and homelessness costs
Borrowing – all invested in highly secure and short term assets, with £24.7million cash and cash equivalent – (liquidity within 24 hours).
Short term borrowing £5.8million and long-term borrowing £25million
On-street Parking (decriminalisation) surplus of £354,000
Pension Liability £8 million reduction (based on life expectancy)
Reserves £13.5 million – up £3.7 million on the previous year
Assets £283 million for property, plant and equipment
Senior officer salaries (excluding pension contributions) £656,383 down from £817,479 last year
Total 2018/19 budget £16.8 million. 2019/20 budget £16.6 million, a decrease of £157,000 on previous year’s budget