Pi News –
The Prime Minister told the Echo that the financial situation of Liberal Democrat-led Eastleigh Borough Council was “extremely worrying”.
It comes after the publication of a damning audit report which highlighted the possibility of fraud at the council’s One Horton Heath housing project.
The debtor authority firmly believes that no fraud has been detected.
During his visit to Silverlake Stadium today, Mr Sunak said: “It’s very worrying but I think Paul [Holmes] He did a great job of clarifying some of the issues in this regard.
“He has raised concerns with the department and it is right that those concerns are addressed.
“At the end of the day, it’s the taxpayers’ money and the public’s money.
“It’s their financial security at stake and the council needs to be held accountable for that.”
READ MORE: Rishi Sunak has been challenged by voters over the state of the NHS
Mr Sunak’s visit forms part of his election campaign as he battles to retain and win Tory seats.
Paul Holmes, MP for Eastleigh, will stand for the new Hamble constituency at the next election following changes made by the Boundary Commission which saw his current constituency split in two.
Mr Sunak is concerned that Eastleigh Borough Council’s decisions will be left in doubt if a Lib Dem candidate is elected to replace Mr Holmes.
He said: “Paul held them to account and that only happens with a Conservative MP.”
Mr Holmes said he was very concerned about the level of debt Eastleigh Borough Council had accumulated.
He told the Echo: “The department has already issued a best value notice against Eastleigh Borough Council.
“But now that we’ve seen their external auditors, they say they can’t deny or prove where the fraud took place and that management practices within the council are not appropriate.
“I think now we need direct government intervention in this council.
“If people can’t trust the leader and his cabinet to make transparent and effective decisions, they shouldn’t be leading this council.”
Questions were also asked of the Prime Minister about Southampton City Council’s financial problems.
Chief executive Mike Harris recently announced he was stepping down after 25 years with the council after the authority’s financial problems took a “significant toll” on his health.
READ NEXT: Saints fan Rishi Sunak uses the Echo app “more than anyone” for news
According to Mr. Sunak, the local authorities decide how to spend the funds allocated from the government.
He said: “At the end of the day, each council will decide individually how to prioritize that money.
“Also, the government is investing in communities through things like our equalization fund and our high street fund.
“Each council makes its own decisions; The government has put a lot more money into the system.”
But Eastleigh Labor claims he is “totally out of touch with the real world experience of the Eastleigh electorate”.
The party has brought “financial strain on working families due to conservative economic failure and a desperate desire for change”.
A spokesman said: “It is well known that neither the Lib Dems nor the Conservatives can be trusted with the public purse.
“It would not be a surprise to see the Prime Minister visit Eastleigh after recent polls have shown her facing a heavy defeat in the upcoming general election.”
Following his visit to Eastleigh, Mr Sunak headed north to Winchester.
During his visit to the city, which is run by a Lib Dem-led council, he was by voters unhappy about the state of the NHS.
The Prime Minister was told she could “stop it all” after a woman walking in Winchester confronted her about long waiting times for treatment.
In an interview filmed by Sky News, Mr Sunak laughed nervously as he said: “You could go back to the way it was … wherever there was a problem, you could go to the hospital.
“My daughter spent seven hours waiting.”
In response, Mr. Sunak blamed absent doctors for the delay.
He told the woman that the recent drop in waiting numbers “shows that we can really make progress without the strikes.”
The Prime Minister also met Peter Taylor, senior partner at Paris Smith, who shared what business leaders are thinking about the region’s economy.
He said: “The Prime Minister took an active interest in a number of issues we were able to discuss, which I noted I hear regularly in conversations across Hampshire.”