I WRITE in response to the letter from Peter Booth (Labour's financial control at all levels has been a disgrace, Your Views, February 14) to correct the misinformation contained within the letter regarding the Labour administration's management of the council's budget.

Whilst I have no issues with legitimate criticism of the budget, factual inaccuracies should in my view be quickly clarified to ensure that the true picture is understood by our residents.

I must therefore take the opportunity to refute the assertion ­— underpinning Mr Booth's entire argument ­— that this Labour budget has been delivered by quote "raiding reserves" and "emptying the coffers with alarming speed".

It is a simple point of easily validated fact that the Labour Budget for 2019/20 puts significantly more money in to the Council's reserves than it takes out.

It is true to say that some £2.8 million is being utilised from reserves to meet the £13.44 million funding gap caused by the shameful austerity policies of the Conservative Government this year.

What Mr Booth fails to recognise, however, is that more than £4.5 million is being added to the council's reserves to cope with the impact of future government cuts which leave Trafford facing a further £28.52 million funding gap in the two years after 2019/20.

Not only are we adding £4.5 million in new reserves, we are increasing the council's general reserve from £6 million to £7 million to mitigate against possible uncertainty from factors such as Brexit.

We are also creating a new £1.19 million reserve within the dedicated schools grant budget to support increased demand in special educational needs and disability services over the next two years in order to protect services.

All of this could be easily checked by Mr Booth should he take the time to read the council's budget papers but clearly demonstrates a substantial net gain in council reserves.

A further read of the budget papers will reveal that not only are we increasing reserves to cope with the ongoing impact of austerity and the funding challenges ahead, but that we have set a balanced budget satisfying the mandatory robustness check required by law.

It will also show that we are on target to balance the council's 2018/19 budget, which was passed to us by the previous administration with a £1.4 million black hole in the SEND budget and had been projected to overspend by some £800,000 when the Tories were kicked out of office in May.

An issue we have been able to resolve on behalf of residents, but one which should raise questions about which party can be trusted with the council's finances.

So to summarise for clarity: we have brought an overspending budget back under control for 2018/19; and set a balanced budget for 2019/20 in spite of a £13.44 million funding gap.

All of this when operating in an environment of unprecedented financial constraints for local authorities, with no job losses or services scrapped.

Council tax is being increased, but by less than the Conservative increases in Trafford in each of the past two years and we've been able to scrap the hated Tory green bin tax at the end of the current payment year in June.

I believe that's a record to be proud of ­— and certainly one that reflects stringent financial control in the face of unrelenting Tory austerity.

Cllr Andrew Western

Leader of Trafford Council