Hart Council seems to be developing an unhealthily close relationship with the developers seeking to build the proposed Winchfield new town. The evidence for this is as follows:
- The council has confirmed it is seeking input from the developers in its bid for Government “Garden Communities” funding.
- Hart is proposing to accept financial support or seconded personnel from developers to come up with its new town plan
Sadly, Hart Council isn’t even capable of adding up the budget properly. Heaven knows how it will manage to retain control and ownership of the project.
Developer support for Garden Communities funding bid
This revelation is contained in a written answer to a supplementary question asked at Council on 25 October. The question and answer are shown below (our emphasis):
Supplementary Q1: Is the Bid solely from HDC or is it a joint bid with one or both New Settlement developers or associates or any other private sector partner?
Answer: You asked who the Hart Garden Communities bid would be submitted from? It is my understanding that the bid will be submitted by Hart District Council but we will be liaising with the respective site promoters to ensure that they have an opportunity to help us inform the bid.
Developer resources seconded to Winchfield new town development plan
This was stated in the proposed Resourcing and Governance paper presented to Overview and Scrutiny and more recently to Cabinet:
There was also a supplementary question asked about this at council (our emphasis):
Supplementary Q3: The Joint CEO statement at the O&S meeting also said that HDC would expect and accept contributions from the New Settlement developers either in financial terms and/or staff augmentation for key roles in the project, so how will HDC in this instance continue to lead the NS project and also provide transparency to the public on the involvement of the developers?
Answer: In light of the Council agreeing to accept assistance from the site promoters you ask how they will continue to lead the new settlement project and also provide transparency to the public on the involvement of the developers? Our position is as set out in both the report to Overview Committee and now paragraph 6.4 of the report to Cabinet. The Council will look actively for external resources to support this project. Sources for this will include Government, Enterprise M3 LEP and the site promoters. It is expected that some of the technical evidence will be funded by site promoters within a scope agreed by the Council. This will reduce the financial costs currently identified for the technical studies, but at this time the impact of this on the overall budget is difficult to predict. Any funding received from site promoters will then be audited through the normal budget management process by Cabinet with quarterly scrutiny by Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Eagle eyed readers will note that the answer given doesn’t actually address the question posed. The question was about how the Council will retain control and lead the project if it is reliant on both people and financial resources from the developers. The answer given doesn’t address that point, and para 6.4 reproduced in the image above doesn’t help either. We recall the maxim “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. It is clear the developers will be calling the shots.
Hart Council gets its Winchfield new town sums wrong
It is particularly worrying that the council can’t even add up the budget properly, so heaven knows how they will manage to keep control and ownership of a project of this size and complexity.
Supplementary Q2: Do the figures contained in Appendix 4 actually add up?
- The total expenditure for 2019/20 is identified as £820,000, but the figures in the table only add up to £780,000.
- The total expenditure for 2020/21 is identified as £612,000, but the figures in the table only add up to £575,000.
Can you explain these two discrepancies and what assurance can you provide that the HDC project team has the skill-set to manage what will be a major project with £multi-million budgets?
Answer: Thank you for highlighting the need to adjust the Cabinet report. A corrected report has been circulated to all members and it is published here.