Virtue Signalling Council Refuses Help for Hard Pressed Families

Virtue Signalling Hart Council Refuses Help for Hard Pressed Families

Virtue Signalling Council Refuses Help for Hard Pressed Families

At Council last week, we asked a number of questions to challenge the budget for next year. One of those questions asked what specific deliverables would be produced from the £250K they have set aside to “tackle climate change”. The answer revealed that they didn’t have the faintest clue what they were going to spend it on or what they were going to deliver with the money. The supplementary question asked if they wouldn’t be better to keep the money in reserves to balance future budgets or offer a rebate on council tax to help families struggling with the cost of living rather than signalling their virtue with other people’s money.

The full exchange can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/sa2I5KxdmsM?t=3809

This accusation caused offence to the Leader of the Council. We’re sorry if the truth hurts. Remember, climate change is supposed to be their “top priority”, but they have no plan. During the debate about the budget many of the Councillors got up to virtue signal express their outrage at such a suggestion. As they expelled lots of hot air containing 40,000ppm CO2, not one of them came up with a single idea to reduce emissions or improve the environment. The Conservatives proposed a motion to remove that item from the budget and instead offer a council tax rebate to the poorest households in the district. This amendment was rejected.

Among the critics of the amendment was Saint Councillor Peter Wildsmith, who asked for the £250K annual budget to be extended indefinitely to tackle the problem. Again, he didn’t come up with a single idea on how to use the money effectively. Now he has taken to social media to describe as a “disgrace” anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him.

The budget was eventually passed with a small amendment to offer a welcome £10,000 grant to Fleet Food Bank.

6 Ideas to Improve Hart’s Environment

We are very concerned about waste at Hart Council. Over £700K has been splurged on the doomed Shapley Heath project since FY19/20 and nothing of substance has been produced. They squandered ~£140K on planters and signs for the disastrous Fleet pedestrianisation project. Now it appears they want to create a permanent £250K/yr climate slush fund to parade their virtue and produce nothing but CO2-laden hot air.

We think if we criticise the Council we should offer some alternative ideas.

  1. The Council has substantial capital reserves. They should invest some of this to insulate better the social housing in the district. This would reduce emissions and reduce residents’ soaring energy bills.
  2. They have been talking about the “green grid” for a long time now and delivered nothing. They should accelerate this project to encourage and enable more walking and cycling.
  3. The Council offices are far bigger than they need. They should move to smaller, better insulated premises and reduce their own energy consumption.
  4. Apply for one or more of these grants to support planting trees in the District.
  5. End support for their disastrous plan to build 5-10,000 unnecessary houses at Shapley Heath. Construction alone would emit 1m tonnes of CO2 and destroy valuable habitat and carbon sinks.
  6. Extend the range of items that can be recycled in the blue bins.

Readers should also note that earlier iterations of Shapley Heath pushed the idea of a locally-sourced biomass energy plant. This is essentially chopping down the wonderful trees in the district to produce electricity. Burning wood produces more CO2 per unit of electricity generated than burning coal. At Drax, it also produces more particulate emissions than burning coal.

The Council declared a Climate Emergency last year. Since then the committee has met several times and produced nothing but hot air. None of the ideas above would require a single penny of the £250K they have allocated to be spent, but would help Hart residents directly and improve the environment. It’s time for the Council to stop the hot air and start acting.

 

 

 

Hart Budget Ugly News

Hart Budget Ugly News

Hart Budget Ugly News

This is the third post covering the Good, the Bad and the Ugly news arising from the release of Hart’s latest budget book. This news isn’t strictly about the FY22/23 budget, it’s about how they have changed the past budget and actuals.

  • They have changed the current year budget yet again.
  • The actuals for FY20-21 have been changed.

Hart Budget Ugly News – Another Change to the FY21-22 Budget

We have reported before on the many changes to the FY21-22 budget. The finance department have excelled themselves and made yet another change to the budget. This is best illustrated by looking at the “Appropriations” section.

Hart FY22-23 Budget Ugly News

Changes to Appropriations FY21-22

The slide above shows the Original FY21/22 budget, approved in February 2021. The two extra columns show the “Final V2” budget published in July and the latest version published as part of the FY22/23 budget book. Clearly, even “Final V2”, wasn’t final.

The first row shows the change in reserves transfers from capital. We’re not too concerned about this because to cover depreciation and is a non-cash item. They have previously disclosed that depreciation wasn’t included in the Original Budget.

The second row shows that they somehow forgot to budget over £1m of pension contributions in the Original budget. They then added them in Final V2.

The third row shows that they budgeted to transfer £381K to reserves originally. Note that positive numbers are costs in public sector accounts. In Final V2, this had changed to a £639K transfer from reserves. A swing of over £1m. In the latest iteration, they have increased this to a £769K transfer from reserves. We believe this is the same £130K that is replacing the Government grant that has been moved to last year’s accounts.

The level of change in the budget defies belief. How on earth can councillors or members of the public properly judge performance against budget when the budget itself is a movable feast?

Changes to FY20-21 Actuals

Not content with changing the budget during the year, they have now started changing the actuals. This can best be seen in the slide below.

Changes to Actuals FY20-21

Changes to Actuals FY20-21

Back in July 2021, they presented the performance for the year in the draft accounts. The budget they presented was different to all other prior representations of the budget, as we reported here. In the draft accounts, the actual controllable expenditure was recorded as £11,868K. In the latest budget book, that has jumped £1.23m to £13,101K, an increase of £1.23m.

Where on earth has this extra spending come from? How did they miss it when presenting the accounts to the auditor for approval.

 

 

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News

This is the second of our three posts covering the Good, the Bad and the Ugly parts of Hart’s FY22-23 budget announcement. The four main areas of bad news are:

  1. The Health and Wellbeing Service has been cut completely.
  2. The costs of the finance department has gone up dramatically.
  3. Large salary increases for the Leadership Team.
  4. Above inflation increases across several contract areas.

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Health and Wellbeing

The Health and Wellbeing service has been cut to zero. As there’s a mental health crisis after the trauma of Covid lockdowns this seems to be a crass decision.

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News - Health and Wellbeing Cuts

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News- Health and Wellbeing Cuts

£118K was the budgeted spend for this year. However, next year no funds have been allocated. The have announced this in quite a sneaky way.  They originally published a summary of budget changes and this cut was not flagged up in the summary. Moreover, we could find no reference to this cut in the papers submitted to O&S or Cabinet.

The cut was buried in the bowels of the detailed Budget Book that was published after the deadline for public questions. We only found it because we were checking that budget added up properly, which of course it didn’t last year.

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Cost of Finance

The cost of the finance department has gone up dramatically. The budget for this year is £497,999. Next year the budget soars to £891,958, an increase of 79%.

Hart Budget Changes Corporate Finance

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Budget Changes Corporate Finance

Given the errors identified and the changes made to this year’s budget, perhaps some upgrading of skills in the finance department is justified. But 79% looks like an outrageous increase to us.

Leadership Salaries

Careful examination of the image above will show that the salaries for the Leadership team are going up by £42K. Remember, Hart has two full-time Chief Executives, so any increase awarded to one has to go to the other. Rather than increasing salaries, we should be cutting at least one of the posts. Regular readers may recall that Havant and East Hampshire share just one Chief Executive between them. There is no justification for keeping two JCXs. With yawning deficits as far as the eye can see, it’s time to bite the bullet and restructure the Leadership team.

Contract Inflation

There are worrying increases in the costs of a number of contracts the Council has awarded.

  • IT Contract up 46% (£164.1K/£356.4K)
  • Grounds Maintenance up 24% (£86.3K/£356.7K)
  • Street Cleaning up 23% (£138K/£604.2K)
  • Waste up 10% (£181K/£1,775K)
  • 5 Council Contract up 9% (£219.7K/£2,497K)

The latest figures we can find show the CPI measure of UK inflation went up 5.5% in the year to January 2022. Why is Hart facing such massive increases in the cost of services?

Hart FY22-23 Budget Changes Corporate Services

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Budget Changes Corporate Services

Hart FY22-23 Budget Changes Technical and Environmental

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Budget Changes Technical and Environmental

 

Hart FY22-23 Budget Good News

Hart FY22-23 Budget: Good News

Hart FY22-23 Budget Good News

This is the first of three posts covering the Good, the Bad and the downright Ugly parts of Hart’s proposed FY22-23 budget.  The really good news is that they are not budgeting to spend anything on the New Settlement. The New Settlement is also known as Shapley Heath or the Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV).

We can see this from the proposed budget for the service area. The full document can be found on Hart’s website. However, there is a history of these documents changing, so we have also uploaded it to this website, here.

Hart FY22-23 Budget: Good News

Hart FY22-23 Budget: Good – No funds allocated to Shapley Heath

As you can see, no funds at all are allocated to FY22-23. The bad part of this is that we can now calculate the full costs of this disastrous project since FY19-20.

  • Net actual and budgeted spending: FY19/20-FY21/22: -£30,361 + £186,126 + £149,167 = £304,932
  • Add grant funding and transfers from reserves: £150,000 + £130,000 + £130,000 = £410,000
  • Total Actual and Budgeted spend: £714,932.

Aside from some pretty inconclusive reports (which were funded by developers), nothing of any substance has been delivered for this eye-watering sum.

Changes to the FY21-22 Budget

There is also some ugliness contained in this report. They have changed the budget for the current year yet again. The original budget for FY21-22 was published in February last year. The part related to SHGV is re-produced below. This shows a total budget of £279K, with no contribution from Government grants.

HASETT - Shapley Heath New Settlement Budget Original FY21-22

HASETT – Shapley Heath New Settlement Budget Original FY21-22

In July, the budget had been changed in the Final V2 version of the budget. A £130K Government grant had been added.

HASETT - Shapley Heath Final Budget FY21-22

HASETT – Shapley Heath Final V2 Budget FY21-22

As you can see in the image above, that same £130K Government Grant has been moved to FY20-21. This is the year the money was received. Now for FY21-22 the grant has been replaced by a £130K transfer from reserves. We should add that we are unaware of any public process that has authorised either of these changes to the budget.

Call us old fashioned, but once a budget is set, we believe it should remain fixed and any variances reported against the budget.  The budget should not be changed during the year.

 

 

Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Budget Questions

Hart Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Questions

Hart Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Questions

Last night our questions to Hart’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee were stonewalled by the bureaucracy. We submitted questions on 9 February and received a response on 11 February saying that our questions had been accepted.

A catalogue of excuses were made to ensure that the questions could not be answered. First, the committee services officer had “forgotten” to circulate the questions to Councillors. This meant they couldn’t prepare their answers in advance. Second, apparently, only the portfolio holder for finance (Councillor Radley) can answer questions about the budget outturn report. However, when that item came up on the agenda, the S151 officer answered all of the other questions and Councillor Radley said virtually nothing.

Their solution is to bundle up the questions and get them answered at Full Council next week. However, that meeting will likely cover next year’s budget. We wanted to focus our questions on that agenda item, not this year’s outturn.

This is frankly pathetic. But as they say, you get most flak when you’re over the target. For the record, our questions to O&S are reproduced below. It remains to be seen whether they will appear in the minutes of the meeting.

Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalled Questions

Outturn Report

The outturn report refers to the original budget of £10,794K approved in February 2021. However, the budget approval included a contingency of £610K for “pressures” (see below):

Hart Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Budget Questions

Hart FY20-21 Budget Pressures £610K

To what extent has this contingency been utilised and how will the use of the contingency impact the forecast full year deficit of £488K?

Minimum Reserve

The August O&S was told there was £6.8m of reserves in the General Fund at the end of FY20/21. The same paper recommended a minimum level of reserves of £5.3m, leaving a headroom of ~£1.5m.

Hart Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Budget Questions

Hart Council Minimum Level of Reserves

With the current forecast deficit and the reserve transfer to cover the Leisure Centre shortfall, what is the current expectation of the reserve level, the minimum reserve and therefore the anticipated headroom at year end?

Moreover, with the current level of forecast deficits into the future, can officers explain when they anticipate reserves falling below the recommended minimum level?

What would be the consequences if that should occur and what further actions might be required to avoid reserves falling below the minimum level?

The video of the exchange is below:

hTtps://youtu.be/OVRmY8emf1s?t=3094

 

 

Hart’s Long Term Finances Spiral Out of Control

Hart's Long Term Finances Spiral Out of Control

Hart’s Long Term Finances Spiral Out of Control

At Cabinet on Thursday, they discussed the draft budget for next year and the medium term financial outlook. We will publish a post on next year’s budget soon. Today’s post focuses on the medium term financial strategy.

Unfortunately, the situation is dire. Despite the savings they have identified, they go into deficit again in FY23/24. The deficit continues to grow wider and wider to over £1.7m in FY26/27.

MTFS shows Hart's Finances Spiral Out of Control

MTFS shows Hart’s long term finances spiral out of control

Even these projections may be flattering, because they rely upon a replacement for the New Homes Bonus delivering £1.2m per year from FY23/24 onwards. As the report itself says, “there is absolutely no certainty” this will happen.

Hart's Long Term Finances Spiral Out of Control - New Homes Bonus Replacement

No certainty on New Homes Bonus Replacement

As can be seen, funding increases in each year. The problem is that costs rise by £600-700K every year. The explanation for these massive increases is sketchy at best.

Overall, they are projecting a cumulative deficit of over £3.8m from FY23/24 onwards. That doesn’t include the loss they will make this year. They budgeted for a £381K deficit and have already raided £1.4m from reserves to cover the loss of income from the Leisure Centres.

Impact on Reserves

The Council have said that the minimum reserves they require is £5.3m. At the beginning of this year they had £6.8m of reserves. Therefore, they only have headroom of £1.5m.

Hart Reserves at Risk - Finances Spiral Out of Control

Hart Reserves at Risk

Depending upon how bad the outturn is for this financial year, there is a high risk that they deplete their reserves below the minimum requirement in the coming years.

We can only hope that the secret meeting next week to discuss restructuring of senior management will deliver further savings.

Hart Council Senior Management Restructure

Hart Council Senior Management Restructure

Perhaps it is time they looked at more radical ideas such as joining forces with a neighbouring council as we outlined here.

Hart Makes Excuses in Answers to Questions

Hart Makes Excuses in Answers to Questions

Hart Makes Excuses in Answers to Questions

We asked questions at last week’s full Council Meeting. Unfortunately, we got a lot of excuses and not much in the way of concrete information. In summary:

  • Apparently, they were told by the Government to budget for the full amount due under the leisure contract in order to qualify for compensation. Now they’re sitting on a £700K loss year-to date. Apparently, they expect to lose the entire £1.4m they budgeted for the full year. This loss was not even identified as a risk in the budget that was signed off by Council in February 2021.
  • They are transferring £1.393m from reserves to cover the Leisure Centre losses. This reserve apparently comes from a VAT refund received some time ago. We tried to press to ask what sports facilities will not now be delivered. Apparently, spending this money doesn’t affect anything else. We remain to be convinced because it was the Cabinet minutes that revealed what the funds were earmarked for:
Hart Leisure Centres Bailed Out from Reserves

Hart Leisure Centres Bailed Out from Reserves

  • The excuse for producing an Infrastructure Delivery Plan where 72% of the projects are not costed is that the IDP is “a living document”. The last version we can find is dated February 2018. It may be just about be alive, but it’s been in hibernation since then. It’s disgraceful that they are producing such shoddy documents. We have been assured a further version will be produced after the CIL consultation has been completed.

The full Q&A session can be found here (p5 onwards)

Hart Makes Excuses Details

Question 1:

  • According to the FY21/22 budget book (account 91019), the track record of actual and budget for income from the Leisure Centres is:
  • FY18/19: £828K actual
  • FY19/20: £1,268K actual
  • FY20/21: £633K budget
  • FY21/22: £1,407K budget.

What was the thinking behind setting the budget at that level and what plans were made to deliver record revenue from the Leisure Centres during a pandemic?

Answer: Hart District Council has a contractual arrangement with Everyone Active (EA); for robust commercial reasons this was used as the budget for 21/22. The Government recognised the contractual position for Local Authorities and to
mitigate the worst adverse impact introduced a compensation scheme. The scheme is linked to the published Budget Book. The 20/21 Budget Book reflects the contracted management fee with Sports Leisure Management Ltd.

The budget accounts for the management fee contractually agreed with EA, it is not directly dependent upon Leisure Centre usage. A new contractual arrangement is being entered into moving forward which takes account of the anticipated pandemic recovery trajectory.

Supplementary: If the budget was set at £1,407k and government support was expected to that level,
why is income down £700k at the halfway point.

Supplementary Answer: The government compensation scheme does not cover for the full amount, but is based
upon the set budget, which reflected the contractual agreement with EA. The government gives some of the money based the budget not all, which is why it has fallen short. The amount entered into the budget book was correct as that it is what we would expect under the contract with EA in normal circumstances.

Question 2:

The Q2 Monitoring report shows that the Leisure Centres are reported to have a shortfall in income of £700K YTD and Cabinet papers indicate that this shortfall will be made up from reserves earmarked for Sports Facilities. However, note 5.11.1 in the draft accounts sets out the details of earmarked reserves and does not explicitly mention a reserve for Sports Facilities. Can you please explain exactly how much is being transferred and where the money is coming from?

Hart Council Earmarked Reserves

Hart Council Earmarked Reserves

Answer: There is an earmarked reserve with funding set aside from a historic VAT refund on leisure services to the value of £1.393k. This reserve forms part of Corporate Services earmarked reserves. The reserve will be used as needed depending on our review of open book income and expenditure on the contract with Everyone Active.

To be clear this is revenue budget money and is not taking away from any leisure services capital reserves or Section 106 funding.

Supplementary: What risk is there of a further reserve transfer next year?

Supplementary Answer: The budget to be approved in February anticipates the contractual amount we will receive from EA, so there should be no need for a further transfer, as we are producing a balanced budget.

Hart Makes Excuses Question 3:

The recently published Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) shows a funding gap of £57.9m. However, 72% of the projects identified remain un-costed. What is the realistic estimate of the full infrastructure funding gap and when will a complete IDP be published?

Hart Infrastructure Plan 72% uncosted

Hart Makes Excuses – Hart Infrastructure Plan 72% un-costed

Answer: The Infrastructure Delivery Plan is a living document, which is reported to Cabinet and Overview & Scrutiny at regular intervals. The report referenced in the question is the one presented to those committees in November. The next iteration of the Infrastructure Delivery Plan is due to be presented in the spring. This will have an updated estimate of
the funding requirements and the shortfall.

Supplementary: The indication in November was that there is that the CIL contribution will meet of ¼ of
the IDP funding. What is the impact on the CIL consultation if you are to republish a ‘proper’ IDP in three months’ time?

Supplementary Answer: The results of the CIL consultation will inform the next iteration of the IDP, but government mandates that the IDP must be set up with a shortfall to allow for developer contributions and other funding mechanisms to operate. The next iteration of the IDP will be published after the CIL consultation is complete, and then we will be able to establish the estimates of funding and shortfall at that time.

Hart Makes Excuses Question 4:

Which sports facilities will now not get delivered because of the transfer from reserves to cover the hole in the Leisure Centre budget?

Answer: The money that is being used to subsidise EA is coming from a revenue fund not S106 money or Capital Reserves, so there will be no impact on future provision leisure facilities or services.

Supplementary: Something must be losing money somewhere. If you making unplanned use of reserves on the leisure centre, what would that money have been spent on?

Supplementary Answer: The Council has reserves earmarked for specific purposes and a general reserve built
up that balances the ebbs and flows of our revenue streams. It is built up in good years to deal with difficult years, it is basically a ‘balancing reserve’. The last two years have been especially challenging because of the pandemic, so it has been a natural decision to use some of the reserves put away for a ‘rainy day’ for a couple of ‘rainy years’ and we would seek to add to the reserves again in good years. The money is there for that purpose. No one has lost out; it is simply good financial management.

 

What's Happening to Hart Leisure Centres

What’s Happening to Hart Leisure Centres?

What's Happening to Hart Leisure Centres

What’s Happening to Hart Leisure Centres

Happy New Year everyone. New Year, same old story. They budgeted record income from the Leisure Centres, despite the difficulties arising from Covid-19 restrictions. As a result, the Leisure Centre budget is under considerable pressure this year. They appear to have received nothing so far. Consequently, they are transferring cash from earmarked reserves to cover the shortfall. They reserves they are using were supposed to be used for sports facilities.

It is understandable that revenue is down. However, why did they budget for record income because it was obvious there would be difficulties?

Let’s go through the detail.

Hart Leisure Centres Record Income Budget

All versions of the budget book show the same income budget.

Hart Leisure Centre Budget

Hart Leisure Centres Budget

As can be seen, the actual and budgeted income by year is:

  • FY18/19: £828K actual
  • FY19/20: £1,268K actual
  • FY20/21: £633K budget
  • FY21/22: £1,407K budget (record budget)

They decided it would be a good idea to plan for record income for FY21/22 despite the country being in lockdown at the time they set the budget. There was a large £399K overspend in Leisure in FY20/21 which should have given some indication of the difficulties facing them.

Leisure Centre Budget Shortfall

The recent Q2 Monitoring Report shows a £700K deficit year to date. Assuming the budget was apportioned equally across the year, they expected approximately £700K income in the first half of the year and have received nothing. That’s quite a spectacular budget failure.

Hart Leisure Centre £700K overspend

Leisure Centre £700K overspend

Reserve Transfer

To cover the shortfall, they are planning to transfer money from earmarked reserves. The papers surrounding this have been kept secret, but the minutes of the Cabinet meeting give us a hint of what is happening.

Hart Leisure Centres Bailed Out from Reserves

Hart Leisure Centres Bailed Out from Reserves

The minutes say they will release reserves earmarked for sports facilities. The trouble is, it is difficult to see where these reserves for Sports Facilities are held. The draft accounts for last year give an analysis of the earmarked reserves in Note 5.11.1.

Hart Council Earmarked Reserves

Hart Council Earmarked Reserves

We can find no explicit mention of reserves earmarked for Sports Facilities. They must be somehow buried in the £2.383m Corporate Services reserve.

 

Hart Changes the Budget Yet Again

Tales of the Unexpected - Hart changes the budget yet again

Tales of the Unexpected – Hart changes the budget yet again

Despite the intense scrutiny being applied to Hart’s budget processes, they have published yet another version of the FY21/22 budget. This latest adjustment comes with the draft Q2 monitoring report published in papers due to be examined by Overview and Scrutiny next week. There’s more twists and turns in the budget than Tales of the Unexpected.

The image below compares the budget published in the draft Q1 monitoring report to the latest version.

Hart Changes the Budget Throughout FY21-22 between Q1 and Q2 Monitoring Reports FY21-22

Hart Changes the Budget between Q1 and Q2 Monitoring Reports FY21-22

The headline total of £10,794K has not changed. However, they have apparently transferred £694K from Technical and Environmental Services to Corporate. No explanation is given for this change. As we understand it, the Constitution demands that changes larger than £50K are approved by full Council.

History of Hart Budget Changes

This is not the first time Hart has changed the budget this year. Below is our tracking of how the budget has changed since February.

Hart Changes the Budget Throughout FY21-22

Hart Changes the Budget Throughout FY21-22

At Council in July. we asked about the changes between the draft and final budgets. We also covered the budget changes here. We were told that the changes were technical in nature relating to grants from Government, SANG funding and depreciation. It is beyond ridiculous that the budget keeps changing between monitoring reports. How on earth do they keep track of it? How do the managers know what they are working to?

Hart Changes the Budget from Deficit to Balanced

In addition, they have airbrushed the deficit budget from history be claiming the original budget, set in February, was balanced.

FY21-22 Alleged Balanced Budget

FY21-22 Alleged Balanced Budget

But this contradicts what they said about it in February. Then they acknowledged they were budgeting for a £381K deficit.

Hart Council budget deficits 2021/22 and 2022/23

Hart Council budget deficits 2021/22 and 2022/23

Budget Bad News

The main bad news buried in the report is that Hart has incurred a £700K deficit so far on the Leisure contract.

Hart Leisure Centre £700K overspend

Hart Leisure Centre £700K overspend

Budget Good News

There is some good news in the report. They are now forecasting a deficit of £612K. This is better than the £776K forecast in Q1. Although worse than the budgeted deficit of £381K. However, the deficit may reduce to £240k if their claim for compensation for loss of fee and charges income is successful.

Hart Q2 Monitoring FY21-22 £612K deficit

Hart Q2 Monitoring FY21-22 £612K deficit

 

CCH Sponsors Shapley Heath Internal Audit

CCH Sponsors Shapley Heath Internal Audit

CCH Sponsors Shapley Heath Internal Audit

CCH has sponsored a paper recommending an internal audit of the Shapley Heath project finances. This comes despite increasingly vitriolic comments about We Heart Hart on their Facebook page.

The full paper can be found here. The title block shows what the paper is about and the Cabinet member responsible:

James Radley Sponsor of Shapley Heath Internal Audit

James Radley Sponsor of Shapley Heath Internal Audit

They are proposing quite a wide-ranging review of the project:

Shapley Heath internal Audit Scope

Shapley Heath Internal Audit Scope

We are concerned that such a wide ranging review might overlook the key issues, that we covered here and are summarised below:

  • How did they manage to spend nearly double the revised FY18/19 budget (£90K spend vs £50K approval) without  authorisation? As I understand it, this breaches the Constitution.
  • For FY20/21, why did the budget change so often?
  • Why did they need to transfer £283K from reserves to cover spending against what ended up being a zero budget?  Spending against a zero budget and/or spending over the original £167K budget without authorisation is surely also a breach of the Constitution.

We also ask whether it is appropriate a Cabinet member to sponsor an audit of a project that he himself was responsible for.

CCH U-Turn on Shapley Heath Internal Audit

This is a significant U-turn from CCH because previously they have dismissed concerns about the financial controls surrounding the project.

Most recently, Councillor Radley dismissed our question as “disingenuous”, even as he described continued spending on a project that is supposedly cancelled. Spending was reported as £81K at the end of September. Now it’s up to £92.5K, and is expected to rise to over £135K by the end of March.

Questions about Shapley Heath Financial Controls are Disingenuous

Questions about Shapley Heath Financial Controls are Disingenuous

It does seem odd that they should spend nearly all of the budget when they terminated the project in October. This is only around  half way through the financial year. He even got his statement wrong. The latest version of the budget shows New Settlement spending is set at £149K.

HASETT - Shapley Heath Final Budget FY21-22

HASETT – Shapley Heath Final Budget FY21-22

Councillor Axam, CCH Chair of the Audit Committee said he didn’t recognise some of our figures when we asked him a question about them at the September meeting.

 

We raised concerns about the budgeting and financial controls surrounding the Shapley Heath project as part of the objection we raised against the accounts. Previously, Mr Radley has described the objection to the accounts as ill-founded.