Hastings council defends itself over wasting tax claims

Hastings Borough Council (HBC) rejected claims it was wasting taxpayers' money on a letting company and temporary agency staff.

Monday, 23rd May 2016, 7:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 11:57 pm
The Taxpayers' Alliance with Conservative Hastings Borough Councillors outside Aquila House on Friday (May 20)

The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) criticised the local authority for spending £113,710 on LetStart Lettings, a scheme the campaigners claimed was failing, and £450,000 on short-term employees while council tax has increased.

But the council rebuffed the claims saying agency staff saved it money and the estate agents has only cost £52,002 as it has made money with more properties on its books than the campaigners suggested.

HBC made the point that its share of council tax has risen by four per cent since 2010 while it is the most deprived council in the south east.

“We make no apology for investing in the regeneration of our town to increase the number and value of jobs, and in making Hastings a better place to live, work, and visit,” a council spokesman said.

“The external auditor reports annually on the council’s use of its resources and whether it provides value for money in the services it provides.

“The council has received a very positive opinion from the auditor on our financial management and the provision of value for money services.”

TPA urged the council should ditch Letstart Lettings and think about every penny it spends during a protest outside Aquila House on Friday (May 20).

But the council spokesman said TPA’s claims were ‘totally misleading’ as it has signed 25 properties, not 18, and has five more in the pipeline, which should make it break even.

The spokesman backed its use of agency staff saying they allow it to address short term shortages through sickness or maternity, as well as reducing the cost of redundancy payments as employee numbers drop through universal credit’s introduction.

“The council has made significant cuts in its budget since 2010/11, as a result of central government funding having reduced by some 54 per cent over this time – some £6m,” the spokesman added.

“As the council continuously seeks to reduce costs, restructures are more common.”

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