Ahead of a consultation to once again cut Council expenditure by targeting the old and vulnerable, Councillor Hazel Simmons, Leader of Luton Council said “through no fault of your own, or of the council’s, the next year or so will be difficult for each one of us.”
So, whose fault is it, that under this administration Council services are under constant attack while loans to its airport appear to be unlimited?
What Councillor Simmons fails to mention is that the Council is now expecting to lend the Council-owned Luton Rising at least £290m to complete the Dart, with Luton Rising auditors already writing off £186m based on a then cost of £268m. The Dart is a Council funded project to provide a driverless train to the airport from the airport’s railway station for people who don’t live in the town, while Council taxpayers will not benefit from the scheme, as they are unlikely to use it. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-64164902
The Times reports that the Dart, has cost a staggering £130,000 per metre and will eventually cost at least £300m.
The Council has also lent Luton Rising an additional £199m in part to pay the Council the interest payments on its Council loans that Luton Rising can’t afford to pay back and to stop it going bankrupt.
With its finances secured with unlimited Council funding it won’t be a difficult year for Luton Rising who reports “We are so excited to have our brand-new glass wrap installed in the station. Small additions make a huge difference, and we are delighted with the sleek look”.
So, we have a situation where – that in the same week as the Council is holding consultations to cut service for the poor and needy – Luton Rising has spent £1000’s covering glass with tints to make it look pretty, but then what is a few thousand when they have spent close to £300m?
So, what is the claimed shortfall in the Council’s budget? Hazel Simmons states it is £7.37m for 2023/24. What she also doesn’t mention is that Luton Rising has agreed that the airport operator, who runs the airport on the Council’s behalf, can keep £15m in concession fees not only this year but for 3 consecutive years meaning £45m will be lost to the Council to help pay for Council services. This after paying nothing in 2020 and 2021.
Never mind Hazel, we know you will get the people who need the Council the most to pay for your blunders – but how about a bit of honesty?