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£1.8M crisis was never that bad, says former boss

A FORMER finance boss has claimed the council's £1.8M cash crisis was nothing to worry about and could easily have been solved from the start.

A FORMER finance boss has claimed the council's £1.8M cash crisis was nothing to worry about and could easily have been solved from the start.

Dan Sherry, former deputy chief executive at Hyndburn Council, made the startling allegations this week in response to an article in last week's Observer.

Mr Sherry was responding to a cabinet report by Joe McIntyre, recently appointed chief finance officer, in which the council's previous financial managment had been described as "weak" and "Byzantine".

Mr Sherry, who also held the post of director of finance until 1995, said: "It's very easy to blame the people who went before if they don't have an opporunity to answer back."

He claimed that officers reported the £1.8M cash crisis to councillors, but failed to tell them about clear solutions because of "inexperience".

And he said that, as long ago as last summer, officers were discussing plans to plug a potential deficit, but these only came to light when the budget was set last week.

He said: "Items such as the capitalisation of various costs and the disposal of the council's interest in some of its external partnerships were being talked about last summer, so I can't understand why they weren't included in the December report setting out the £1.8M shortfall. The members have been let down."

He added: "Since December everyone has been very worried about the cash-crisis but that wasn't necessary."

"There has always been an annual shortfall in available resources, but officers and members sat down and worked things out. In the space of a few short weeks the council has moved from a £1.8M black hole to a magic solution, to a decision to reduce the council tax increase by more than six per cent."

"That means the council forgoes nearly £300,000 in income. Some black hole. The Byzantine approach to financial management is alive and well and living at Scaitcliffe House."

Responding to the claims, council leader Peter Britcliffe, said: "I don't intend to enter into a slanging match with any former employee. Understandably, Dan has been out of the organisation for some time now and he may not be fully aware of the situation that has faced us."

He said in 20 years on the council he had never experienced such difficult times, adding: "Independent auditors confirmed the steps we took to deal with the problem were necessary and right. The important thing now is to face up to these rather than to try to hide it away."

Council managing director David Welsby, said: "The council officers are not inexperienced and haven't failed in their duty and the auditors will confirm that."


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