Hard-pressed council has millions in the bank in ‘cash reserves’

WHILE up to £1.5 million is needed for repairs to Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre, the building’s owners – Horsham District Council – has millions stashed away for a rainy day.

The council’s ruling cabinet group maintains that the leisure centre is beyond economic repair and council leader Robert Nye said: “The building’s basically shot.”

However the cost of repairs is a drop in the ocean as far as the council’s cash reserves are concerned. As of April this year, the council had more than £13 million in ‘usuable reserves’ with another £99 million ‘unusable.’

The total sum of more than £112 million are part of the council’s general fund revenue reserves established in 1988/89 “to provide finance to meet future expenditure arising from capital and revenue projects”.

And, it was also set up “to finance the programme of replacement of heavy plant equipment and machinery and programmed renewal works”.

According to the council’s annual accounts for 2010/2011, £983,000 was transferred to reserves during that period.

When asked about the figures, a spokesperson for Horsham District Council said: “The council had usable reserves of £13.130 million as at 31 March 2011.

“Some of this is in reserves earmarked for specific future expenditure, for example the vehicle replacement reserve and the repairs and renewals reserve.

“Some of the reserves are in general reserves which are held either to cover emergencies or to meet current and future capital and one off costs which cannot be met from annual revenue income.

“Much is already committed to meet the council’s existing capital programme. The council’s policy is to ensure that in the medium term at least £4 million remains in the reserves for future investment in the district.”

The spokesman explained that the £99 million ‘unusable reserves’ are not available cash but accounting entries, representing, for example, increases in the value of assets owned by the council.

He explained that cash reserves and day to day surplus cash are invested in cash deposits with banks and building societies to generate interest income or are used on a temporary basis in lieu of external borrowing.