I FULLY realise I don’t lead the most exciting of lives, and with an hour or two to kill on Saturday waiting for a YouTube virtual pub quiz to start I found myself going through Warrington Council’s 2019/20 statement of accounts.

Don’t judge me, a man needs a hobby.

In a recent column, I raised the issue of the government cutting the amount of money it gives to councils and how this had forced Warrington to become more ‘creative’ in generating income – think building and operating solar energy farms, becoming part-owners of a commercial bank, buying business parks.

And part of the strategy has also been to make budget cutbacks. In fact, a total of £67m of savings have been made over the past four years and the plan is to make a further £43m of cuts over the four years from 2020/21.

It’s certainly true that Revenue Support Grant (government funding) has been drastically cut and ceases completely in 2021/22.

But there may be some financial light at the end of the tunnel.

According to Lynton Green, Warrington council’s director of corporate services, councils will in future retain 75 per cent of business rates.

“This could be positive for (Warrington) Council”, he says “as they currently retain less than 50 per cent of what they receive”.

As Chris Haggett, from Penketh, points out, given the council’s business rates receipts were almost £34m in 2019/20 it will indeed be significant.

But what does Mr Green mean by ‘positive’? Will the increase in income from business rates be more than the money the council is losing from the ending of the Revenue Support Grant?

I ask this question because it does put the ‘need’ for the council’s commercial operations in a different light.

While we’re talking about the council’s commercial activities, my eye was drawn to the paragraph that dealt with Redwood Bank.

The council took a 33 per cent stake in 2017 for a £30m investment. The £30m was paid in three instalments £10m in 2017/18 and the balancing £20m was paid in two instalments in 2018/19.

The report states: “A full, comprehensive business case was drawn up in line with the results of a Warrington business survey carried out in 2013 which showed there was high need for a bank in Warrington. The bank is operating successfully and to business plan.”

I’d like to see a definition, backed by figures, about what constitutes ‘operating successfully’.

Generally speaking, I’m not opposed to the council showing some imagination and creativity in its plans to raise income but I do think there’s a need for some real transparency. After all, when you are carrying a long-term borrowing figure of £1.42bn (yes billion), there must be some element of risk we should all be aware of.

On a different topic, do you remember when home secretary Priti Patel was ridiculed after she announced the ‘good news’ that the crime statistics showed shoplifting was down and claimed this as a victory for our ‘world class’ policing when in fact it was during lockdown and there were no shops open for people to steal from?

Now health secretary Matt Hancock has jumped on the ridiculous statements bandwagon.

He says we should all stop working from home and get back to the office because it’s safe to return to workplaces, as data has shown coronavirus is predominantly passed on through household gatherings.

How remarkable. The virus is passed on in homes (where people are) and is not passed on in offices (where people aren’t).

We are truly in safe hands with people of such intellect looking after us.