EVERY scheme being carried out by Tameside Council is under a ‘full and comprehensive’ review after its own officers described its spending ambition as ‘unaffordable’.
And while councillors admit they are in a ‘pretty difficult situation’ they insist they have aspirations.
The authority is undertaking a review of its projects after it was revealed millions of pounds more were needed to meet the balance.
Ashton Town Hall, Denton Festival Hall and Hyde Library are just some of the projects being looked at because a £32 million shortfall, according to figures.
That means either cutting back on some schemes or selling further assets to make up the difference.
A report by director of finance Kathy Roe admits: “Assuming that the planned disposals proceed there is a forecast balance of £7.1 million of capital receipts to fund future earmarked capital schemes, meaning the broader capital ambition of the council is currently unaffordable until such time as additional capital receipts are generated.
“Failure to properly manage and monitor the strategic commission’s budgets will lead to service failure and a loss of public confidence.
“Expenditure in excess of budgeted resources is likely to result in a call on council reserves, which will reduce the resources available for future investment.
“The use and reliance on one-off measures to balance the budget is not sustainable and makes it more difficult in future years to recover the budget position.”
And Caroline Barlow, Tameside Council’s assistant director of finance, told a meeting of the strategic planning and capital monitoring panel: “All schemes will be subject to review and a refreshed and revitalised capital program will be proposed later in the year.
“There’s nothing wrong with having ambition. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to deliver the best for the borough but it has to be within a financial envelope that’s affordable.”
The report drew a withering response from Conservative councillor Doreen Dickinson, who claimed she had been assured the schemes were affordable and also criticised delays in the review.
She said: “Exactly the same wording was presented at the meeting on March 15 apart from then it said it would be proposed in spring or early summer.
“It’s now mid-summer and this lack of action is not building any confidence whatsoever in any ambitions the council has going forward.
“Nearly 12 months on and we still don’t have a clue about what is going to happen to Ashton Town Hall.”
Cllr Oliver Ryan, Tameside Council’s executive member for finance and economic growth, admitted the figures make the review necessary.
But he was eager to point to some of the authority’s success stories.
He said: “We’re in a pretty difficult situation to fund the capital programme and it’s right we’re doing that review.
“We don’t want to hedge our bets on what we’ve got to spend then limit our choices later down the line.
“What’s the ambition of this council? There’s an awful lot of ambition for every town we’ve got in Tameside.
“Look at some of the achievements we’ve had over the last few years, like Ashton town centre, Tameside One, Denton Wellness Centre, the plans we’ve in place for places like Hyde, Denton. Mossley and Droylsden.
“The problem we’ve got now is that we’re in a difficult financial situation and the programme has to match our ability to pay for it. This review will hopefully set the limits of what could be achievable.
“I’ve confidence in the timetable we’ve set out, being September and some of this year to bring that review forward.”