Sutton’s £5.5m exposure to the Icelandic meltdown was the big topic of discussion at last night’s Executive (Cabinet) meeting. You can see the statement that the Council have issued following UK based Heritable Bank’s slide into administration here.
Tim Crowley, Conservative Finance spokesman has several years of Treasury experience in the City. He addressed the cabinet at the meeting covering the following bullet points:-
- We, as Conservatives, will do all we can to support any Government initiative to retrieve frozen monies – this is the important thing at this time.
- Transparency in Sutton Council on this issue is of paramount importance because we are dealing with taxpayers’ public funds and we need to engender confidence and trust. This must be our next priority.
- This is a reputational issue which could attract attention from other Council services, and potentially overshadow its work elsewhere.
- As the Opposition we are concerned and disappointed with the public pronouncements in the national media of the Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesman Dr Vince Cable who has described councils who deposited funds into Icelandic Banks and their subsidiaries as “unbelievably silly”.
- We also note the comments of The Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay on the Today programme who attacked Tory-lead Winchester Council which had deposited one million pounds into an Icelandic bank’s subsidiary, Heritable, two weeks before the crash as “blind and deaf.”
- We are disappointed that the national Liberal Democrat leadership has decided to revert to crude political point scoring in a time of crisis, and that by doing so they are undermining laudable efforts by all concerned to get this taxpayers’ money returned.
- We would prefer to concentrate on investigating under what circumstances we lent this money to Heritable Bank, and to ensure that proper procedures were followed.
- To enable this to happen it is imperative that all paperwork relating to these transactions be secured and that an independent investigator be seconded to provide the answers to these questions.
- As the Opposition, we would like hardcopies of all money market transactions that the Council has taken in the last calendar year and the weekly counterparty risk limits to enable informed decisions to be made.
- Only by us having this paperwork will we be able to ensure that scrutiny process is carried out in comprehensive and competent way.
On the party political point, it is interesting to see Vince Cable quoted in the Telegraph as saying “In a crisis like this I don’t think people would warm terribly to my running around saying ‘I told you so'” The LibDem parliamentary finance team certainly did not warm themselves to Sutton’s Lead Finance Councillor who told Lord Oakeshott yesterday afternoon that his comments were less than helpful.
Although the Cable & Oakeshott double act is an interesting diversion, the matter is too pressing to concentrate on partisan politics. Tim is leading our investigation into the matter with considerable vigour. I am pleased that officers recognise the need for a robust and transparent enquiry. In the meantime, we will continue to support moves to get our money back in order to minimise Sutton taxpayers’ exposure to this. It is important to stress that this loss will not have an immediate impact. I know that some council employees have been spooked by reports of losses in other local authorities affecting payroll. This is not the case here in Sutton.