ELMBRIDGE Council has set an ambitious goal of be- coming ‘self-funding’ and free from its dependence on the ever shrinking Government maintenance grant within six years.
Tim Oliver, Cabinet member for Resources in the borough’s Conservative administration, is driving forward a strategy of property in- vestments that will give the borough a stable income in the near future. The grant Elmbridge receives from Central Government to run services has diminished by 50% in the last four years, and will continue to go down.
To combat this the council has reduced its spending by £8million since the current Conservative administration took office in 2006 - and has achieved this without impacting frontline services or cutting grants to our local voluntary sector.
But making efficiencies is only part of the solution and the council also needs to find new sources of income. Cllr Oliver (pictured) said: “We have set the goal of financial independence from the Government grant by 2020. All local authorities want to be in that position but for most it is not realistic. Elmbridge is one of the few councils where that is achievable, because of the decisions we’ve taken.”
Elmbridge receives a ‘New Homes Bonus’ stream of money from the Government, which the council has used to build its reserves by around three to four million each year.
Cllr Oliver added: “This has allowed us to invest around £13million so far in ‘local as- sets’, for example we purchased a row of shops in Cobham. Our investment crite- ria is that it has to be in the borough and make a minimum annual return for the taxpayer of 6%.”
As Resources portfolio holder Cllr Oliver oversees Elmbridge’s legal department, IT, finances and asset management. He is married to Debi, a GP, and has three children. He has been a borough councillor for Esher since 2000 and served for four years as county councillor for East Molesey & Esher from 2005 until 2009.
Cllr Oliver, 54, brings a wealth of experience from the world of business to the council. In 2000, the year he was first elected, he launched his legal services company, Prabis, and grew it from a turnover of £2million to just under £200million this year. It employs 2,500 people. Whilst doing that Cllr Oliver was also chairman of the Shooting Star Children’s Hospice for a number of years and oversaw its merger with Chase in Guildford.
He is now deputy chairman of his company, a less hands-on role which allows him more time to spend on council work. Cllr Oliver said: “Local government isn’t just about emptying the wheelie bins. Elmbridge can be a top borough to live in. We’ve got the environment and the quality of life and it’s up to the council to see how we can add to that."