LEADING councillors have been accused of telling a “blatant lie” about money.
Clr Robert Light, who leads the opposition Conservatives on Kirklees Council, has accused the ruling Labour-Lib Dem coalition of misleading people about council finances.
Clr Light, who led Kirklees until last month, denied his party had left a £44m black hole in the budget.
He said: “There has never been a £44m black hole and the council’s director of finance has now confirmed this in writing to me after I raised the issues with him.”
Clr Light criticised the council’s leader Clr Mehboob Khan of Labour and his Lib Dem deputy Clr Kath Pinnock for claiming there was a serious problem with the finances.
He said: “I can only say I am appalled at the way the naive novice council leader Clr Khan and his deputy Clr Pinnock have behaved.
“Her behaviour has been atrocious and with this evil alliance in place the future for our residents must be in severe jeopardy.” Clr Light said the £44m figure was actually savings which all parties agreed would have to be made between 2009 and 2012.
He said: “These savings were requested by the Conservative administration to ensure council tax rose by no more than 3% each year. These figures were presented to full council – at which both Labour and Lib Dem leaders were present – on December 10 2008. If there was a black hole they should have exposed it then.”
Clr Light accused Labour and the Lib Dems of lying about the budget.
He said: “It is quite clear that the new administration of this council have concocted a blatant lie. I don’t expect an apology to the Conservative group, but I do expect an admission to the residents of Kirklees that they have been misled.”
But Clr Pinnock dismissed Clr Light’s criticism.
She said: “I’m sad that ex-council leader Robert Light has reverted to cheap personal attacks that do nothing for residents, rather than dealing with the issues. It’s a shame he’s being fairly bitter.”
Clr Pinnock added that the Conservatives had left the new Labour-Lib Dem cabinet with a serious financial problem.
She said: “No-one has said there’s a black hole, but the finances are under extreme stress. We have to find £44m of savings because of the recession and because the Conservatives failed to plan for a rainy day when they were in charge.
“The Conservatives need to take some responsibility for this. Northern Rock went to the wall well over a year ago and it was clear from then that there were troubled times ahead.
“The Tories failed to think about how they were going to help people through the tough times. It’s sad that they ducked responsibility.”
Labour and the Lib Dems will announce their plans for the 2009/10 budget and council tax rate today.