Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell is furious at the attitude of RCT's Director of Finance after he refused point blank to provide any further financial information to opposition Councillors to allow scrutiny of the budget.
Councillor Powell asked for detailed breakdowns for every department, indicating precise expenditure across the board, but in an email response Director of Finance and future Chief Executive Steve Merritt refused, saying that "I will not provide the detail requested as I feel you have adequate information."
The request followed much public criticism of opposition members by the Labour administration for failing to come up with detailed alternative proposals to the imminent cuts.
Councillor Powell said
"It is unbelievable that Members of this Authority are being denied information that should be freely available. How on earth can anyone be expected to come up with any concrete alternative suggestions to these savage Labour cuts without knowing what the money is being spent on?
"Unlike Mr Merritt and the ruling Labour group I do not believe it is enough to be simply given headline department figures and outline spending plans. Much of the waste that occurs in this Council is 'hidden' waste that will not show up in broad brush outline lists of expenditure.
"We are just expected to believe that efficiency savings have taken place to their full extent and there is no fat left to trim in any department. What is even more worrying is that it appears the Cabinet do not operate with any more detail which gives lie to the idea that this is a Member led authority.
"The public were present at the last Council meeting and the one previous to that when those of us on the opposition benches were challenged by Cabinet Members and indeed Mr Merritt himself to come up with alternative proposals. I trust given this response they will be keeping quiet on that front in future"
In his email responding to Cllr Powell's request the Director said that "Members have budget books and on a quarterly basis are provided with budget and spend analysis that gives detail as to the costs of services we provide this is complemented with information explaining the performance of our services."
RCT Welsh Liberal Democrat Campaign Manager Karen Roberts said the response is disgraceful and representative of the closed shop that RCT Council is.
"This just goes to show that the Labour Cabinet are certainly not earning their salaries. How can they be when they are allowing empires to be built up within the Council?
"Mr Merritt had the nerve to suggest in his reply to Councillor Powell that as he had never been part of the administration of RCT Council then he did not understand how the system worked.
"Well I have been part of the administration and I know how it can work, how Members can and should be responsible for scrutinising every aspect of Council spend. The decisions taken by this Council should be as a result of Members priorities, they are the ones elected to represent the public.
"Whilst I wouldn't personally trust the Labour party to run a bath let alone a Council then at least if we were sure the decisions were their then there would be a degree of democratic accountability.
"Instead they are letting Officers carry on with the same practices they have for years, wasting money and building up their own little empires."