Sutton Life Centre still relies on Government top-ups
A Government grant given for start-up costs for the Sutton Life Centre is continuing to bail it out from overspends, three years after it was granted.
In 2009 the council was awarded external funding of £256,000 Local Authority Business Growth Inventive (Lagbi).
The former minister for local government, Phil Woolas, told Parliament in 2007 that the Lagbi scheme "aims to encourage local authorities to increase business growth in their areas" and would be made from business rates revenue in their area.
The executive agreed in 2009 that £181,000 of the grant would cover start up costs for the Life Centre this included £160,000 "one-off" set-up costs and £21,000 to provide discounts of up to 50 per cent for Sutton’s schools during the Life Centre’s first year of operation.
However, figures for the centre for 2012/13 reveal a difference of £60,800 between the council's budget and projected costs of £529,000.
Thie council has said this has been filled by money from the original Lagbi funding.
Deputy leader of the opposition, Tim Crowley, said: "They have gone in to their safety valve to top it up again. The money should have been spent on local businesses.
"We are three years into the life centre and it could be construed as a slush fund - used to prop it up when they go over budget. That is not start-up costs."
Figures from February this year showed the Life Centre has overspent by £261,200 that financial year.
In relation to the projected costs for the life centre this year Coun Crowley added: "The original business case said it would make a profit - now we are subsidising it.
"I was astounded that the subsidy is over half a million pounds and at a time when the council is saying it has got no money.
"I’m annoyed that it looks like a continual waste of tax payer’s money."
Sutton Councillor Graham Tope, chairman of the centre's management board said: “The Life Centre is a multipurpose community building that provides thousands of local children with a number of unique and exciting services.
"The centre includes sports facilities, a youth club, and climbing wall as well as the community library so its operation requires greater resources than that of other libraries.
“The Lagbi funding received in 2009 was earmarked for starting up the Life Centre and has been rolled out to cover the different stages of the start-up since then.
"Starting a unique and engaging project like this is a long process, so the money has been used to help support different stages of that start-up.
"This process was drawn up when the LAGBI funding was granted and we have remained within budget to provide a cost effective service to our local community, all in one place, that’s not provided anywhere else in London.”