CCH Rhetoric Awards 2021

CCH Rhetoric Awards

CCH Rhetoric Awards

We asked a series of questions about Hart’s finances in general and Shapley Heath in particular at the Council meeting held on 29 July. Normally, we would report on the answers to these questions within a few days of the meeting. We are still waiting for some of the written answers to be provided, so we thought we should provide an update.

Regular readers may recall that CCH’s leader famously described his untrue statements about Shapley Heath in a letter to our MP Ranil Jayawardena as “rhetoric”. Unfortunately, the answers to our questions are riddled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies. It seems the CCH Rhetoric Machine has been fired up again. So, we have instituted the satirical CCH Rhetoric Awards. Read on to find out which answers we awarded the prestigious Golden Cowpat.

CCH Rhetoric Awards – Summary

  • Q1 Changes to Actuals for prior years: Wooden spoon for falling at the last hurdle after first giving a convincing answer.
  • Q2 Big Sings in the Budget: Partially correct answer, but a Silver Cowpat for the answer clearly not being the whole truth.
  • Q3 Budget does not add up: Partially correct answer, but a Silver Cowpat for the answer clearly not being the whole truth.
  • Q3 Supp – Waste Contract: Temporary Silver Cowpat award, but we reserve the right to upgrade to a Golden Cowpat if the external consultants don’t find the missing £1.1m.
  • Q4 Shapley Heath Budgets: Coveted Golden Cowpat for the level of rhetoric.
  • Q4 Supp Shapley Heath Spending: The “Not Me Guv” Sloping Shoulder Award and the Artful Dodger Prize for avoiding the question.
  • Q5 Shapley Heath Baseline Studies: Special Sword of Truth award for this answer that revealed developers are funding the independent studies.
  • Q6 £283K Transfer from Reserves: Another Golden Cowpat and the Greensill Award for Financial Transparency
  • Q6 Supp How much of £500K Shapley Heath Reserves remain: Awarded the special Paul Daniels “Not a Lot” Award for not providing an answer at all. [Update] Award now rescinded because answer now provided [/Update]
  • Q7 Shapley Heath Spending FY20/21: Another Golden Cowpat and the Enron Lifetime Achievement Award for Accounting Excellence.
  • Q7 Supp Shapley Heath Overspend: Lord Lucan Award for the missing answer. [Update] Award now rescinded because answer now provided. Golden Cowpat awarded instead [/Update]

Let’s go through the detailed questions and answers one by one.  The original question (and supplementaries) are shown in bold black. The answers are shown in blue and our commentary on the answers are shown in red.

Question 1: Changes in Actuals for Prior Years

Q1. Why have the actuals for FY18/19 and FY19/20 changed between the publication of the draft budget in February 2021 and the final budget published this month [Note the actuals in the draft didn’t match the Final V2 budget either]? Is there any impact on the published statutory accounts for those years?

Hart Finances Out of Control - Changes to Actuals

Hart Finances Out of Control – Changes to Actuals

A1. Before I answer any of the detail I would just like to let everyone know that we will be publishing these questions and answers, because the questions relate to tables and data whilst I will provide verbal responses I think the response will be most understandable in written format.

In the first table you refer to i.e. the draft budget published February 2021, interest on investments for 2018/19 and 2019/20 was excluded from the summary by service and instead included as part of below the line adjustments.  For transparency and accountability this was placed above the line for reporting in the latest version of the budget book to ensure that it forms part of the detailed monthly budget monitoring process.

This has no affect on the statutory accounts which reports income and expenditure in a different format according to the CIPFA SORP.

The tables below shows the detail of these line adjustments.

CCH Rhetoric Awards Q1 Written Answer

CCH Rhetoric Awards Q1 Written Answer

Our Response: On the face of it, the verbal answer given at the meeting was a reasonable explanation. However, it has been spoiled somewhat by the tables provided in the written answer which don’t match the figures for FY19/20 in the original draft budget and of course, the end balance is not zero after accounting adjustments.  This opens up even more questions about control over the budgets. We shall award this answer the Wooden Spoon for falling at the last hurdle.

Question 2: Big Swings in Budget between Service Areas

Q2. There are big differences between the budgets agreed for the Service Areas in March and final budget published this month. What governance processes were used and who authorised such massive swings in the budget and are they in accordance with the constitutional budget procedures 3 and 5 as well as financial regulations FR10 and FR12 which limit changes unless approved by full council?

Hart Finances Out of Control - Big changes between draft and final budget

Hart Finances Out of Control – Big changes between draft and final budget

A2. There is a net difference between the draft budget and final budget of £37K

This is due to changes in the assumptions in the value of recycling credits, grants and depreciation.

The draft budget, due to its timing made assumptions based on information known at that time. As final numbers became available, they were incorporated into the Final Budget.

In summary the following updates were made.

    • Grants – estimated numbers were used at the time of the Draft Budget. As final details were received these were incorporated into the final budget and categorised into the correct Service Area.
    • SANG allocation in Tech & Environmental – S106 reserves were released which fund the SANG cost centres. This allocation was not included in the Draft Budget.
    • Depreciation: Final asset valuation reports were not available at the time of the draft budget these numbers were updated for the final budget.
CCH Rhetoric Awards: Q2 Written Answer

Q2 Written Answer

Our Response. First, the swing of £37K overall is larger than the £10K that needs to be signed off by Cabinet. Moreover, the rest of the explanation given does not hold water. Swings of >£10K are apparent in some services. For example, the Waste Client Team net income budget has fallen £52K, more than the limit that needs to be signed off by Full Council. The budgets for Corporate Communications (+£19.5K) and Register of Electors (+£17K) have higher spending even though they are not affected by the explanation given. In effect, a different budget is now in operation to that which was signed off by Council.

This is another example of poor budgeting and inadequate oversight and governance. We give this a Silver Cowpat award. The answer had some merit, but is clearly not the whole truth.

Waste Client Team Budget Changes

Waste Client Team Budget Changes

Other Budget Changes

Other Budget Changes

Question 3: Budget Does Not Add Up

Q3. In the recently published final budget for FY21/22, the sum of the spending in the service areas for GL Codes 10000 – Basic Salary, 44069 – Homelessness and 90012 – Other Government Grants is not equal to the total for those GL Codes in the “Subjective” summary. In short, the budget apparently does not add up. It appears as though HANEED is missing from the service areas. What steps are being taken to make the budget internally consistent and what impact will correcting the errors have on the projected deficit?

Hart Finances Out of Control - Budget Does Not Add Up

Hart Finances Out of Control – Budget Does Not Add Up

A2: The HANEED cost centre detail page was missing from the scanned copy of the paper copy of the Draft budget book. The budgetary numbers were not missing from the overall numbers. This is a matter of presentation.

Additional checks will be incorporated into the process for future publications.

Our Response. Again, this is not a complete answer. First, it refers to the draft budget published in February. However, despite being pointed out by email at the time to all Councillors, the JCX’s and the S151 Officer, the draft budget was passed with the error. However, the same error persisted into the Final budget published in early July. The question related to the Final budget. This was corrected when it was drawn to the attention of officers. However, the error cannot simply be a “slip of the scanner”.

First, it seems unlikely that the scanner would miss exactly the same page five months apart. Secondly, other changes were made between the Final and Final V2 budgets. The total employee costs decreased £50K between Draft and Final, yet increased £211K between Final and Final V2. This is another example of the Council now working to a different budget to the one signed off in February. We give this answer another Silver Cowpat award. The answer had some merit, but is clearly not the whole truth.

CCH Rhetoric Awards Employment Cost Changes

CCH Rhetoric Awards Employment Cost Changes

Q3 Supplementary – Waste Contract

Q3 Supp: Have the ever-changing budgets and persistent errors impacted on the Waste Contract, where over one million pounds appears to have been lost down the back of the sofa?

A3 Supp: I can reassure you that that is not the case. Following the reconciliation of costs of the waste contract as part of the handover of the client management to Basingstoke costs of £1.1 million remained under a rechargeable cost code. It was agreed with Basingstoke that we would bring in independent specialists to review these costs, how they should be accounted for, and whether they should be rebilled. This work has started, and early indications are that this dates back to 2018 and investigations are continuing. This is an accountancy artifact which relates to the council cross charging. There is every expectation that these charges balance out with other charging which has flowed in the other direction. The net affect being zero. This is simply an accounting artifact.

Our Response. If this missing money is just an “accounting artifact” with a “net effect of zero”, why is it recorded as an unfavourable variance in papers to Overview and Scrutiny and to Cabinet? Both papers presented by none other than Councillor James Radley. The same overall variance has made its way into the statutory accounts due to be audited shortly. If the problem dates back to 2018, doesn’t this call into question the accuracy of the accounts from earlier years?

We give this a Silver Cowpat award, because there is an outside chance the external consultants find the money. But we reserve the right to upgrade to the coveted gold award.

Hart Loses £1m down the back of the sofa

HAWBDC Basingstoke Waste Contract £1.121m uninvoiced at year end reported June 2021

Hart Loses £1m down the back of the sofa

HAWBDC Basingstoke Waste Contract £1.088m overspend reported Jul 2021

CCH Rhetoric Awards Question 4: Shapley Heath Budgets

Q4. The recently released final budget for FY21/22 shows that the budget for HASETT – New Settlement in FY20/21 was zero. It consisted of ~£68K for employee costs and car allowances, offset by a somewhat implausible identical receipt from GL Code 44047 – Consultants Projects. In common with the other service areas, no overheads were allocated. Yet, the transparency report shows spending of £63.7K on consultants (not money received from) in “New Settlement” for FY20/21. What governance processes were used to authorise such a large spend against an overall zero budget, apparently in contravention of FR10 in the constitution?

Shapley Heath Financial Shell Game: New Settlement Transparency Report FY20-21

Shapley Heath New Settlement Transparency Report FY20-21

A4: The New Settlement published budget for 20/21 did not reflect the release of reserves agreed by Cabinet in February 2020.

These reserves were drawn down at the end of the year on assumption of agreement made by full council on the 6 February 2020 and approved by Cabinet.

Our Response. We have scoured the document referred to. The only references we can find to Shapley Heath are:

    • It being described as a “pressure” requiring £500K of spending over 3 years
    • £167K of discretionary spending allocated in the FY20/21 budget

We do not believe that setting a budget is the same thing as releasing reserves. In any event, the budget should reflect the spending required, and a release of reserves is not “income”. As Councillor Radley has said himself, moving money from reserves is the equivalent of moving money from your savings account to your current account to cover an overdraft.

Oh, and the Council meeting to approve the budget took place on 27 February 2020, not 6 February. We give this answer the coveted Golden Cowpat for the level of “rhetoric”.

Q4 Supplementary FY21/22 Shapley Heath Spending

Q4 Supp: Hart recently advertised Garden Community contracts with an indicative value of £56K, against a FY21/22 budget of £25K, isn’t it time for some proper forensic accountants to get to the bottom of what’s going wrong with budgeting and financial controls?

Answer A4 Supp [On the Night]. I am not in a position to comment on how Place department operate, but we do maintain that our departments, at the end of the year have balanced their budgets and I am quite convinced they are working within those limits.

Answer A4 Supp [Written Answer]. The Council operates internal controls across the organisation. These include budget monitoring, budget virements and spend approval. The Shapley Heath project is subject to these same budgetary controls as all other projects/activities.

Details of these controls can be found within the published Hart Constitution – Financial Regulations and Contract Standing Orders. Hart Consitution [sic]

Our Response: First, Shapley Heath is a Corporate Services project, one of the areas that Councillor Radley is responsible for. The rest of the answer does not address the question posed. The “Not Me Guv” Sloping Shoulder Award and the Artful Dodger Prize for avoiding the question on this one.

CCH Rhetoric Awards Question 5: Shapley Heath Baseline Studies

Q5: In addition, the Shapley Heath Opportunity Board papers show that four Baseline Studies had reached the status of “Finalised” by 8 March, before the end of the Financial Year. These must have cost money, but do not show on the Transparency Report nor on the Contracts Register. How much was spent on Baseline Studies and Strategy Reports in FY20/21?

Shapley Heath Baseline Studies as of 8 March 2021

Shapley Heath Baseline Studies as of 8 March 2021

A5: The Shapley Heath Opportunity Board Papers clearly state that the Baseline Studies were funded by promoters. No money was spent by the Council on Baseline Studies or Strategic Reports in 2020/21.

Our Response: It does seem more than odd that Councillor Radley should proudly proclaim that none of the £283K transferred from reserves was spent on anything useful for the project. It’s looking like the HDC project team is little more than the PR department for the developers. And we are paying for it. If the Baseline Studies were funded entirely by developers, how can they be relied upon to be impartial? Are HDC really going to base their Shapley Heath strategy on documents funded and sourced from the developers? What ever happened to a council led project? We give this answer a special Sword of Truth award.

Question 6: Governance Arrangements for £283K Transfer from Reserves

Q6: The agenda pack for July Cabinet shows that £283K was transferred from reserves to fund Shapley Heath. How is it possible to spend £283K against a zero budget whilst running a deficit and what governance processes authorised this spend?

Shapley Heath Financial Shell Game £283K Transfer from Reserves

Shapley Heath £283K Transfer from Reserves

A6: Expenditure for Shapley Heath spend was presented to Cabinet on the following dates:

Shapley Heath is funded by Government Grants. Grants have been received over several years. With Cabinet’s consent, grant funding can be transferred to and from an ear-marked reserve between financial years. Members provided the approval for a £283K transfer from reserves at Cabinet on the 3rd July to fund 20/21 expenditure. This paper was subject to scrutiny by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Our Response. We covered the ever changing budget and spending for Shapley Heath here. During the year, the full year budget has fluctuated from £167K originally to £500K in July. It went back down to £68.6K (2 x half-YTD £34.3K budget) in October and then to zero. Spending miraculously fell from £65.5K in July to £47.7K in October. It seems they can set a budget, change it willy-nilly and then seek approval for unbudgeted expenditure after the money has been spent. In addition, Shapley Heath is not solely funded by Government grants – see below.

Oh, and by the way, the Cabinet meeting to approve the £283K transfer from reserves took place on 1 July 2021, not 3 July.  Another Golden Cowpat award for this one and the special Greensill Prize for Financial Transparency.

Q6 Supplementary: £500K Shapley Heath Reserves

Q6 Supp: How much of the £500K set aside in reserves for Shapley Heath remains unspent?

A6: Promised written answer has not yet arrived.

Our Response: Of course, if Shapley Heath really was funded by Government grants, then the answer to this question should be really simple. The whole £500K should be remaining to be spent. But so far he has claimed £167K was transferred from reserves in February 2020 and we know a further £283K has just been approved.

Let’s help Councillor Radley out here. By our calculations, based on Hart’s published figures, there will be ~£98K of the £500K reserves remaining at the end of this financial year. That’s assuming they don’t go over budget this year.  We suspect that they will have virtually nothing to show for this spending other than a botched survey and some biased studies from developers. How much more of our money is going to be wasted on this ridiculous white elephant? We award this the Paul Daniels “Not a Lot” Prize for not even bothering to answer the question.

Shapley Heath Reserves Remaining Update

Shapley Heath Reserves Remaining Update

[Update] Unfortunately, we will have to rescind the Paul Daniels “Not a Lot” Prize because an answer has now been provided. The answer given was:

The answer at the 31st March 2021 is that we held £367,051, no further reserve transfers have occurred since then.

This is consistent with HDC now accounting for the £130K grant received in June 2021 in FY20/21 (within £10K). So, our estimate of ~£98K remaining at the end of FY21/22 is if anything a bit high. Table above updated accordingly. In any event, this answer shows that the answer to the main Q6 is incorrect. It is clear that some of the £500K reserve has been used. Therefore, Shapley Heath is not funded just by Government grants. [/Update]

CCH Rhetoric Awards Question 7: Shapley Heath Spending FY20/21

Q7: How much was spent in total on Shapley Heath Garden Community in FY20/21 and can you provide a detailed breakdown of that spend (and receipts) please?

Answer [On the Night]:  As this question necessitates the provision of tables of data it will be answered as a Freedom of Information request to provide the detail. I can however tell you the totals in summary this evening by way of reading them out.

  • Staff costs £114,261
  • Supplies and Services of £72,102
  • Total controllable costs before recharges is £186,363
  • Income received for 2021 year from MHCLG was £130,000

Answer [FOI]. The FOI answer was substantially the same, with the addition of £7,500 cost recovery.

CCH Rhetoric Awards Q7 FOI Response

CCH Rhetoric Awards Q7 FOI Response

Our Response: We think there is some mistake here. Both responses show the £130K grant obtained from MHCLG as being accounted for in FY20/21.  This is rather odd because:

  • The same £130K also shows as a line item in the Final V2 FY21/22 budget (see image below). Clearly the same money should not be accounted for in two different financial years.
  • The grant was announced on 7 June 2021, and presumably received shortly afterwards. June 2021 is unambiguously part of FY21/22. No other announcement about Government funding has been made since the original grant award of £150K in 2019.
  • The FY20/21 full year outturn report contained an entry showing £283K transferred from reserves to covering “FY2020/21 work on the New Settlement at Shapley Heath” (see image above). It is highly unlikely that such a large transfer would be required if £130K had been received from Government in FY20/21
HASETT - Shapley Heath Final Budget FY21-22

HASETT – Shapley Heath Final Budget FY21-22

We give this answer the coveted Golden Cowpat along with the Enron Lifetime Achievement Award for Accounting Excellence.

Q7 Supplementary: How is it possible to overspend on employment cost budget?

Q7 Supp: From memory, the budget for employment costs was £68K and I think Cllr Radley said it was almost double that. How can we spend more than double [NB: should have said nearly double] the budget?

A7: No written answer has been forthcoming.

Our Response. My memory was right. £66.7K direct employment costs plus £1.4K for car allowances. This one gets the Lord Lucan Award for the missing answer. 

[Update] We will now have to rescind the Lord Lucan award because an answer has been provided.

The budget was set in advance of the year and only included gross salary costs for 20/21 excluding on costs. When on costs were added this increased the requirement for spend.

However, we can now award a new Golden Cowpat for the answer. The £68K budget above clearly includes normal on costs of employers NI, pension contributions and even car allowances. So, the overspend is not explained at all. [/Update]

 

CCH Embrace Cancel Culture and Run Away

CCH Embrace Cancel Culture and Run Away

CCH Embrace Cancel Culture and Run Away

Community Campaign Hart, the main proponent of the Shapley Heath project have embraced cancel culture. Like Monty Python, they have run away from debate and discussion.

They started by issuing a warning on their Facebook page:

CCH Embrace Censor Critics

CCH Embrace Censor Critics

Then, despite there being no “abuse” that we saw, comments were mysteriously cancelled from their posts.

CCH Embrace Cancel Culture

CCH Embrace Cancel Culture

Now, despite Facebook showing that there are 26 comments on one of their more controversial posts, only 4 replies are visible to users. It seems they have deleted comments from people that disagree with them. Now, only their acolytes can comment on their posts. Many people thought they were deaf to criticism before, but now they have cancelled anyone who has the temerity to disagree with them.

It’s not the first time they have been caught censoring people. Back in 2017, they banned questions they didn’t like from being asked at Council. But remember:

Words can be deleted but the facts cannot be deleted with them

Words can be deleted but the facts cannot be deleted with them – Ai Weiwei

The facts are the Inspector rejected the new town; their own papers say it is unnecessary. Running away like cowards is not a particularly endearing trait. We can but hope that this attitude is punished at the ballot box next May.

Guest Post: What is wrong with Shapley Heath

What is Wrong with Shapley Heath

What is Wrong with Shapley Heath

Today, we have a guest post from Tristram Cary, chairman of the Rural Hart Association. In this post, he sets out his reasons why the Shapley Heath Garden Community is a bad idea.

Having read the rest of this article, you might like to respond to the Shapley Heath survey. This is your chance to make known your concerns about the proposals. We have produced a handy guide with suggestions as to how you might choose to answer the freeform questions. The guide can be found on the download below. The full survey can be found here. The survey closes on 5 July.

Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses

Introduction

Hart District Council is exploring the potential to build a new community in the district of up to 5,000 new homes, with associated community facilities, to meet its long-term housing requirements.” This statement, from the introduction to SHGV Community Survey, sums up HDC’s motivation for embarking on a major publicly-funded project which includes a SHGV website, a sophisticated Communications and Engagement Strategy, a SHGV Stakeholder’s Forum with five Thematic Groups and the commissioning of 13 Baseline Surveys on things like Transport, Heritage, Landscape, Flooding and Utilities.

This article makes the case that:

  1. Hart District Council (HDC) has no business undertaking the SHGV project because:
    • It is a blatant attempt to pre-determine Hart’s future development by promoting its preferred strategy over viable alternatives
    • It is not in synchronisation with the Local Plan which should guide all HDC’s planning activities
  2. By failing to consider the trade-offs involved in developing SHGV over alternative development strategies, the results of the SHGV Project in general, and the Community Survey in particular, will be largely invalid.
  3. The SHGV Project is not merely an expensive and misguided attempt at pre-determination. It is also damaging the prospects for regenerating Fleet (and Hart’s other urban centres), which is an Objective of the Local Plan (unlike SHGV)
  4. SHGV is objectively a bad development strategy for Hart (when compared to the alternatives) in terms of sustainability, climate/carbon footprint, and green spaces.

Predetermination

The SHGV Project team explains that the SHGV project is not an attempt at pre-determination because it is subordinate to the Local Plan. The Project team explains that the SHGV conclusions and recommendations will only carry weight if and when the Local Plan is updated to include SHGV, at that therefore the SHGV project is neutral and unbiased.

This argument is wrong for the following reasons:

  • SHGV is in fact the chosen strategy of HDC. HDC is dominated by Community Campaign Hart (CCH) whose primary objective is to save Fleet/Church Crookham from over-development by building a new Settlement in the Winchfield area. This is made clear in many of CCH’s newsletters (available on the CCH website). Here is an extract from the Spring 2012 CCH Newsletter:

We either continue to grow Fleet & Church Crookham outwards (in which case what, realistically, do you do with the traffic?) or we look at a new settlement.  Winchfield is about the only sustainable location for such a new settlement in Hart District.”

  • The Communication and Engagement Strategy for SHGV is heavily biased in favour of SHGV and makes no attempt to present a balanced view of SHGV in comparison to the alternatives. To illustrate this here are some quotes (with my comments in blue):

Use Shapley Heath in communications where possible [to get the public used to the idea that it is going to happen];

Create awareness of what the alternatives might be (sequential development, developments on appeal) [these are bad alternatives – no mention has been made of good alternatives including regeneration of Fleet to make it more attractive and commercially successful];

We want our audience to know why we think it’s the right location to explore [a clear bias in favour of SHGV and against alternative locations such as Rye Common];

Highlight key benefits – a new community with a unique character, green spaces, employment opportunities, retail space, leisure facilities, economic development, new schools, and other critical infrastructure [no mention of Key Disadvantages such as loss of green space, coalescence of towns, lack of growth potential, damage to prospects of Fleet regeneration, increasing housing capacity which would be taken up by Rushmoor and Surrey Heath under the Duty to Cooperate etc];

Be clear about the limited brownfield opportunities in the district [biased in favour of SHGV and ignores the alternative strategies];

Use subject matter experts (like Lord Taylor of Goss Moor) to highlight the benefits of garden communities from experience elsewhere [stressing benefits without acknowledging the downsides].

Failure to Consider Trade-Offs as a part of the SHGV Project

The SHGV project’s stated aim is to conduct an assessment of the potential of SHGV as a means of satisfying Hart’s long-term housing needs. The SHGV project team insists that the project is unbiased and that all alternatives will be properly explored as required by the Local Plan Inspector. However, if that is true, why would the SHGV project not be open about the pros and cons of SHGV when compared to alternative strategies such as alternative sites for a Garden Village and re-generation of Hart’s urban centres? Every alternative strategy will have advantages and disadvantages, and to hide the disadvantages is clearly biased.

Failure to present SHGV in the context of the alternative strategies will invalidate the results of the Community Survey.

SHGV Project is already Damaging the Prospects for the Regeneration of Fleet and Hart’s other urban centres

The Local Plan identifies that Hart does not provide adequate retail and leisure outlets for its residents. As a result, “The outflow of retail expenditure from the District…is relatively high and is likely to remain high in the future”: [Local Plan para 65.]

The Local Plan goes on to identify the cause of this problem: “The main centres in Hart have not kept pace with other centres in the wider area. Other centres have strengthened and improved their offering through investment and development. Failure to invest in the centres will see them continue to fall in the rankings”: [Retail, Leisure and Town Centre Study Part 1 para 2.15].

To provide Hart with adequate retail and leisure outlets the Local Plan states that “The challenge for Fleet specifically will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts. All the neighbouring towns are subject to regeneration or expansion projects”: Local Plan Para 66

To attract major investment into Fleet an essential first step is to invest in a Masterplan for Fleet which would identify how the residential, employment, leisure, education, transport, and infrastructure needs could be developed in a coordinated way so that Fleet would become a better, greener, more prosperous and more commercially successful town. It is quite extraordinary that HDC has failed in its clear duty to invest in a Masterplan for Fleet (and note that HDC’s investigation into regeneration of the Civic Quarter is not sufficient)

But to make matters worse, by investing solely in the SHGV project, HDC is sending a further clear signal to developers that Fleet is not a priority. So HDC’s claim that the SHGV project is ‘neutral’ and can run in parallel with the Local Plan without damaging the Local Plan objectives is false. HDC has clearly nailed its colours to the SHGV mast, and by doing so it is already significantly damaging Fleet’s future prospects.

SHGV is Objectively a Poor Strategy

SHGV is objectively a poor strategy compared to the alternatives for the following reasons:

  1. It is a well-established fact that larger settlements are more sustainable than smaller ones (because larger settlements have more residential, employment, health and leisure facilities within easy reach of the residents than smaller ones). SHGV is therefore going to generate a larger carbon footprint than a strategy based on re-generating Hart’s existing towns and villages. This should be a critical issue now that HDC has declared a Climate Emergency and has undertaken to ‘put the reduction of CO2 at the front and centre of all policies and formal decision-making.’
  2. SHGV scores badly against several of the Guiding Principles of Garden Villages. In particular:
    • Green Space – Garden Communities should be surrounded by countryside. SHGV will not be
    • Sustainable Scale – This principle includes the ‘capacity for future growth to meet the evolving housing and economic needs of the local area’. SHGV will have very limited geographical scope for future growth
    • Future Proofed – This principle also includes the ‘capacity for future growth’ which SHGV will not have

Coalescence and Conurbation

What's wrong with Shapley Heath - Coalesence

What is wrong with Shapley Heath – Coalesence

This map shows the density of residential housing in the district (based on March 2017 residential address data in 1km squares). Areas which are not coloured in green are countryside (having less than one home per hectare).

Points to note are:

  1. The green areas of urban development clearly show how coalescence has already caused towns like Yateley, Camberley, Farnborough and Aldershot to be merged into a single conurbation
  2. This conurbation already spreads in a continuous thread from the centre of London westwards to the westerly edge of Fleet
  3. At present Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Hook and Odiham are all surrounded by countryside which adds significantly to their character and provides an important leisure amenity. This is what gives the district its rural character
  4. SHGV would merge Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Hook and Odiham a continuous conurbation, in defiance of the Garden Village principles and the Local Plan vision to maintain the rural character of the district

What is Wrong with Shapley Heath: Conclusions

  1. The SHGV Project is not an unbiased exploration of the potential of SHGV. It is an attempt at pre-determination.
  2. SHGV is causing real damage to the Local Plan aim of attracting investment for the re-regeneration of Fleet and other urban centres
  3. The results of the Community Survey will not be valid because no balanced context has been provided on the advantages/disadvantages of SHGV and alternative strategies
  4. SHGV is objectively a poor strategy which does not align with HDC’s Climate Emergency commitment to put the reduction of CO2 at the front and centre of all polices and decision-making
  5. SHGV will cause coalescence between Fleet, Harley Wintney, Hook and Odiham which will significantly damage their character as well as the rural nature of Hart District.

Recommendations

  1. HDC should abandon the SHGV Project and invest instead in a comprehensive Masterplan for Fleet which is an essential first step towards meeting the Local Plan objective to secure funding for Fleet regeneration
  2. Failing a), the SHGV project should provide clear information about the pros and cons of SHGV when compared to the alternative development strategies
  3. Respondents should be encouraged to object to the clear bias of the SHGV Community Survey

CCH seek opt out from housing target as they build more than required

CCH seek opt out from housing targets

CCH seek opt out from housing targets

In a desperate move, CCH has launched a campaign for Hart District to opt out of the Government housing targets. The say:

We are therefore asking all residents who like us, want no more forced housing in Hart, to support us on a call to central government, via our MP Ranil Jayawardena, to remove Hart from any future government housing allocation.

Many of us have thought for some time that CCH displayed quite authoritarian tendencies. But this is virtually a declaration of independence on housing policy. Something tells us that Ranil won’t be receiving many emails.

Already building more than Local Plan Requires

The irony in their position is that they are in power when we are building far more than required. In each of the past five years, Hart has built far more than Local Plan requirement of 423 dpa.

Hart District Annual Housing Completions to Mar 2020

Hart District Annual Housing Completions to Mar 2020

Of course, they may argue that this is because many planning permissions were granted when Hart did not have a Local Plan.

No Intention of Reviewing the Local Plan

But looking forward, the most recently published housing target for Hart is 286dpa. Yet, despite being asked, they have no intention of reviewing the Local Plan to take advantage of this new, lower figure.

So, we are building more than is required by both the Local Plan and more than the Government housing target.

Shapley Heath will Add to the Excess Building

Yet, they are still planning Shapley Heath. The most recent housing trajectory for this project has housing delivery starting in 2024. The steady state housing trajectory is 360 dpa. Even on its own, Shapley Heath delivers far more than the Government housing target.

Shapley Heath Housing Trajectory Sept 2020

Shapley Heath Housing Trajectory Sept 2020

All of the housing delivered by Shapley Heath will be in addition to the Local Plan.

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

Adding it all up, over the period that Shapley Heath will be built, it will deliver about 2,400 houses in excess of requirements.

CCH seek opt out from housing target as they plan to build even more

CCH seek opt out from housing targets as they plan Shapley Heath to build more than Local Plan requirement

Perhaps it would be better for CCH to spend their time getting their own house in order instead of indulging in ridiculous grandstanding.

Shapley Heath Survey

You might like to respond to the Shapley Heath survey. We have produced a handy guide with suggestions as to how you might choose to answer the freeform questions. It can be found on the link below. The full survey can be found here.

Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses

 

Latest CCH newsletter released

Pinocchio writes Community Campaign Hart newsletter

Latest CCH newsletter released

CCH have released their latest newsletter. They follow their usual path of being economical with the truth.  There are some quite astonishing claims in there, that need to be answered.

False Pale Lane Claim

They claim:

The Local Plan has already demonstrated its value by being part of the successful defence against inappropriate urban extensions in Hook and most notably at Pale Lane, on farmland adjacent to Elvetham Heath. Even as a draft, it has significant weight when considered at a planning appeal.

But the inspector said that the emerging Local Plan only carried “moderate weight“. CCH don’t mention that the most important piece of evidence was the Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan, whcih carried “significant weight”.

Housing Numbers Warning

They say:

The very calculation the government use to reach our `Objectively Assessed Housing Need’ is expected to be radically modified in the near future. Any material change in this calculation of our housing numbers would render the Local Plan `out of date‘ and require Hart to fundamentally review its Local Plan….

There is some truth in the claim that Hart will run short of housing around 2025/26, as we covered here. But there is no evidence that the new formula for calculating housing need is going to be “radically modified”. Indeed their implication that housing numbers will rise is false.  In fact, if Hart were to conduct an early review of the Local Plan, our annual housing target would be reduced from 423 dpa to 251 dpa. But, in Hart’s answer to our latest question, they have ruled out an early review.

Shapley Heath Justification

CCH then go on to justify the need for Shapley Heath:

That is why the Community Campaign support the approach of carefully evaluating the possibility of a new eco-friendly garden village within walking distance of Winchfield station. Only if needed, this development could be used to deliver the bulk of any additional housing that may be required by central government in the period from 2026 onwards. As such, it must be very carefully planned to deliver all the necessary infrastructure.

Note how Shapley Heath has now become “eco-friendly”, despite the fact it is entirely unnecessary and building it will likely emit 1m tonnes of CO2.

CCH Newsletter: Fact Checking the myth busting

CCH’s newletter includes a section on “myth-busting” Shapley Heath.

First on housing need.

A new settlement is not needed as part of the new Local Plan. This is all about funding (with government grant support) a project to see what is possible. If the future government housing targets do not require such housing to be built – it will not be built. This is an insurance policy against Hart having to take on a higher housing quota in a few years’ time.

If they really wanted an insurance policy they would be conducting a immediate review of the Local Plan to take advantage of the lower housing target from the latest Government methodology.

Then on the size of Shapley Heath.  They claim that they are only considering a development of 5,000 houses. But the bid they submitted to Government was for up to 10,000. The flawed viability assessment was for 5,300 houses.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses

Shapley Heath Garden Village Viability Summary

Shapley Heath Garden Village Viability Summary

So, they are wrong again. They then go on to make some false claims about infrastructure.

Bolt-on urban extensions don’t deliver infrastructure. They don’t present the economies of scale to permit major road improvements, nor building a new secondary school, or doctors surgeries.

The flawed viability assessment for Shapley Heath pointedly does not include provision for healthcare.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Viability Assessment Infrastructure Costs

Their plans simply do not stack up to even cursory scrutiny. They go on to make extraordinary claims about the features of Shapley Heath.

Shapley Heath’ is being investigated using government grant funding designed to promote eco-friendly garden villages. This is about learning from the disasters of the past and building semi-rural communities which are sympathetic to and supportive of, the local and wider ecology and climate. There will be integrated transport, rainwater harvesting, centralised heat and power plants, carbon efficient housing design, an emphasis on renewables and truly sustainable living.

Let’s for a moment ignore the fact that this isn’t needed, so the 1m tonnes of CO2 produced during construction will also be an unnecessary. But even the Planning Inspector criticised the claims for a district heating system.

Option 1b has been ranked the highest under the category climate change. This is as a result of the potential for the proposed new settlement to deliver a district heating system. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this is a feasible or realistic option that is being actively pursued by the site promoters. I consider this raises doubt about the appropriateness of such a ranking.

The viability study only made allowance for standard build costs. No allowance was made for the additional costs of “carbon efficient housing design”. Their claims are simply marketing fluff that aren’t backed up by anything.

Ostrich approach to Fleet Revitalisation

The CCH newsletter then goes on to discuss Fleet. They claim that Fleet “isn’t all that bad”. This is despite the council’s own bid for Future High Street funding saying:

  • The council quotes a prior report that says a “do nothing scenario would not be viable in Fleet”.
  • Fleet faces a number of key challenges.
  • 88% of people say Fleet doesn’t meet their retail and leisure needs.
  • 52% of people would not recommend a visit to the town centre.
  • 67% think the poor retail offer reflects badly on the town centre.
  • The confidence of local businesses is extremely low.
  • Fleet unable to compete with neighbouring towns.
  • Major retailers identify Fleet as an investment risk.
  • Lack of affordable housing is identified as a key issue by 27%

Fleet is falling behind its local competitors. Most of the surrounding towns are attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of investment. Fleet isn’t getting anything.

CCH newsletter ignores Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

CCH Newsletter – Regeneration untruths

CCH then go onto claim that revitalising our town centres must mean “high-rise” flats. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed high-rise developments do not deliver good places to live, and we oppose them. They offer no vision on how to address the issues facing Fleet. We will give further details on our ideas in further posts.

 

In the meantime, please do challenge CCH to come clean on their mendacious claims.

 

 

CCH Rhetoric Machine Goes Into Overdrive

CCH's Shapley Heath Rhetoric Machine Goes Into Overdrive

CCH Rhetoric Machine Goes Into Overdrive

The CCH Rhetoric Machine went into overdrive at Thursday’s Cabinet. After claiming their untrue statements about Shapley Heath were just rhetoric, they went on to make more spurious claims in the Cabinet meeting (report here). We have produced a short video to tackle the main claims:

Since then , they have produced a defence of their position on Facebook. Below is their post, together with the RHA response in red.

CCH rhetoric machine goes into overdrive

This post is in response to accusations made against CCH Councillors on certain fb pages.

Do they mean us? Surely not.

If you would like to see for yourself what was said and how it was said, please see the link below for HDC’s live streaming of last night’s cabinet meeting and, Paper H relating to the Garden Community that was to be discussed.

Please take the video to 37 minutes to begin at the start of the Garden Community debate.

https://fb.me/HDCLiveStreaming (We believe this link will expire in a few days).

https://www.hart.gov.uk/…/19%2011%2007%20Garden%20village%2…

Alternatively, you can read our post, with edited highlights from the meeting here.

CCH have been accused of:

– being rude to members of the public.

Not by us. There are many words we could use to describe CCH’s attitude, but on the night they weren’t particularly rude to anybody.

– being prejudicial towards a new settlement.

Not true. Prejudicial has no meaning in this context. The accusation in the QC opinion is of CCH being of ‘closed mind’ and thus having a predetermined attitude to matters relating to Shapley Heath.

– wanting to build houses Hart doesn’t need.

Well, this is true. Their own Local Plan said that the new town wasn’t required. The inspector agreed and threw out Policy SS3. The Garden Village bid document said the same thing. Yet, they still bid for Government money for an unnecessary Garden Village. Now they have agreed to spend up to £650K to flesh out the plans for it having committed to Government that it would deliver 5,000 homes above local requirements with an indication that there is capacity “…for a development of 10,000 homes…”.

– wanting to build 10,000 new homes.

Up to 10,000 houses is stated both in the bid and the accompanying Vision Document.

We say, we were assertive in demonstrating our reasoning, were reactive to correct misinformation and were defensive, when necessary, of ourselves and, the people we represent.

As you decide for yourself, we would like to draw your attention (see below) to just one member of the public’s statement as it has bearing on one of the accusations made against us (We believe this refers to the RHA statement):-

Rural Hart Association (RHA, made up of 3 predominately Winchfield groups),

Not true. WAG is based in Winchfield. We Heart Hart is based in Hartley Wintney and NE Hants Greens are district-wide. In addition, other Hart-wide groups support RHA. 

state they want to regenerate Fleet Town Centre and, have ‘given developers the Hart Centre’.

True. RHA does want to regenerate Fleet and the other urban centres to keep up with neighbouring towns like Camberley, Aldershot, Farnham and Wokingham. RHA came up with several options for regeneration of Fleet. Hart Shopping Centre was put forward as one of these options to developers by RSH.

They then state that their developers will not carry out any work on this ‘regeneration’ scheme ‘unless HDC takes the Garden Village off the table’.

Not true. The developers won’t invest time and money in urban regeneration when the Council has such an obvious bias towards the new town and clearly no interest in looking at urban regeneration.

Is this prejudicial by residents of Winchfield wanting future development away from them and for it to continue in and around Fleet?

Again ‘prejudicial’ has no legal meaning. Residents aren’t the people who actually make planning decisions, so they can’t be predetermined. Of course, they can oppose proposals they disagree with. The Local Plan itself identifies the decline of Fleet as a key issue, yet the policies to address this are feeble. It is the interests of all Hart residents for the countryside to be preserved and for all of the urban centres of Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley to thrive. Private money is clearly available to support such schemes as evidenced by the regeneration of Camberley, Farnham, Aldershot and Wokingham.

If you live in Fleet, Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Elvetham Heath and Hook, you will know they’ve seen the majority of urban expansion over the last decade.

Compared to their size, Hartley Wintney and Odiham have also seen big new developments. In addition, Fleet has fallen behind its neighbours in terms of retail, leisure and public amenities. 

Do you ‘really’ want more development tagged on, using existing infrastructure… roads, schools, doctors, station that already cannot cope?

No. A masterplan for all of our urban centres will address these issues and should also deliver infrastructure funding in the places that need it. Remember the infrastructure plans for the new settlement were described by the Inspector as “not of any great substance”. Plus, a new town won’t deliver any new infrastructure for existing settlements. At least urban regeneration would deliver funds for infrastructure in the areas that are already creaking under the strain.

Do you want to live in town where it’s centre is high rise apartment blocks offering no outdoor space for families?

The LSH proposal for the Hart Shopping Centre utilised existing sightlines and in no sense was it “high rise”. Additional regeneration opportunities such as the Civic Campus could also deliver outdoor spaces.

That’s what RHA are proposing for you.

More rhetoric that you shouldn’t take too seriously.

We will look at all options open to us but, CCH want to deliver our future housing needs in a way that is high quality, sustainable and right for the majority of Hart not, just for the few.

But you clearly aren’t looking at anything other than a new settlement. The Paper explicitly rules out looking at alternatives. There is nothing ‘high quality’ about any of the new town proposals delivered so far. For instance, three locations for a secondary school have been proposed. One was next to a mental health unit housing sex offenders, the second was directly on top of a high-pressure gas main and the third was under electricity pylons. And of course, the Inspector threw out the last proposal because he wasn’t convinced it was deliverable.

And, as we have said many times before, reiterated by Councillor “it’s only rhetoric” Radley last night, if we don’t ‘need’ to build more houses then we ‘won’t build any more houses.

The CCH Rhetoric machine is up and running again. The bid to Government committed you to building over and above the local requirement. The new town isn’t needed to meet requirements. So, why are you spending £650K of taxpayers money?

Pale Lane Appeal Quashed

Wates Homes Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane) Development Proposal, near Elvetham Heath and Hartley Wintney, Hart District, Hampshire.

Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane Appeal Quashed

Some great news emerged on Monday afternoon. The Pale Lane Appeal has been quashed by the Secretary of State. This means there won’t be any development in that location at least up until 2032. The complete decision document can be found here.

The Secretary of State examined a number of of issues in coming to his decision.

The issue that carried the strongest weight was the Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan (HWNP). The Pale Lane site falls partially within the Hartley Wintney Parish. It was not allocated for development within the HWNP and this carried “significant weight”. So, we must thank Hartley Wintney Parish Council on their efforts that saw the Neightbourhood Plan “made” only last month.

Other issues considered included:

  • The emerging Hart Local Plan, which also does not allocate Pale Lane. However, despite being close to being approved only carried “moderate weight”.
  • He also considered that even if Pale Lane were refused, there would still be more than five years land supply.
  • The potential loss of Best and Most Versatile agricultural land was considered “moderate weight”.
  • Sadly, the highways, health, education and quality of life issues raised by the Stop Elvetham Chase group carried no weight.

The now infamous letter from CCH to Ranil wasn’t even mentioned in the report. So, it seems that the fight against Pale Lane was won irrespective of their efforts. However, the letter they wrote has caused them predetermination problems with their pet Shapley Heath project.

It seems the lesson here is to focus on the real planning issues and get Neighbourhood Plans in place if we want to combat further unnecessary and undesirable greenfield development.

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has now come out unequivocally against large scale green field development. This  includes Shapley Heath, Rye Common and West of Hook. He has produced a constituency charter. We ask that you consider signing his charter that can be found here. This complements his call for bold regeneration plans.

 

QC Opinion: CCH Predetermination of Shapley Heath revealed in Ranil letter

QC Opinion: CCH predetermination revealed in letter to Ranil

QC Opinion: CCH predetermination revealed in letter to Ranil

The Rural Hart Association has obtained a QC’s Opinion that shows CCH’s predetermination of the Shapley Heath Garden Village proposal. Their predetermination was revealed in their letter to Ranil Jayawardena MP about Pale Lane/Elvetham Chase. It is ironic that on Bonfire Night, CCH’s own vanity has led to their plans for Shapley Heath going up in smoke.

Back in July all CCH Councillors wrote to Ranil, lobbying him about the upcoming Pale Lane/Elvetham Heath decision by the Secretary of State. In that letter they claimed that 5,000 houses had been “secured for the next planning period” at Shapley Heath.

Of course, this was a misleading statement, because in no sense have any houses been “secured” at Shapley Heath. For instance, the planning Inspector ripped apart their proposals in the Local Plan examination. The only sensible inference that can be made from their statement is that they have closed their minds to a proper consideration of Shapley Heath and alternatives. In Andrew Tabachnik QC’s opinion, this amounts to predetermination.

The consequences of this finding are that Community Campaign Hart Councillors must either:

  1. Recant their statement and demonstrate they have a genuinely open mind on the matter or,
  2. Recuse themselves from any further decisions about Shapley Heath.

In short, CCH have snookered themselves as far as Shapley Heath is concerned.  If they don’t recant then they should be excluded from discussion and voting about Shapley Heath at Overview & Scrutiny, Planning, Cabinet and Full Council. Indeed, their participation in the September O&S might be inappropriate.  We can keep an eye on all of their public statements and actions from now on in the light of this opinion. There is the option of further legal proceedings if they step out of line.

The Rural Hart Association will be making a statement at Thursday’s Cabinet and recommending actions that the CCH councillors should take to retract the sentiments in their letter and demonstrate an open mind about Shapley Heath.

The full QC’s Opinion can be downloaded from the button below:

QC Opinion: CCH Predetermination of Shapley Heath

The supporting detail that led to the opinion follows:

CCH Letter to Ranil

The full letter to Ranil was published on the Facebook page of some of the CCH councillors. It can be found on here (page 1) and here (page 2). The incriminating passage is shown in the image below:

CCH Predetermination: 5000 more houses secured at Shapley Heath

CCH Predetermination: 5000 more houses secured at Shapley Heath

Excerpts from QC Opinion that shows CCH Predetermination

4. I am asked to advise whether the above letter – and in particular the reference to “5000 more homes secured for the next planning period through Shapley Heath” – is relevant to the participation of the four Councillor signatories identified above in the Cabinet’s forthcoming decisions concerning Shapley Heath.

5. In my view, for reasons explained below:

a. The relevant assertion to Mr Jayawardena MP is totally misleading. There is no sense of the word in which Shapley Heath has been “secured for the next planning period”. Quite the opposite, as matters currently stand. Nothing at all has been “secured” for the “next planning period”. Further, the Local Plan Inspector’s 26 February 2019 letter sends Shapley Heath back to the drawing-board, with clear findings that it has not been justified as sound on its own merits nor is there a robust assessment of its comparative qualities as against reasonable alternatives.

b. Regrettably, the only sensible inference is that the authors of the letter have shut their minds to a fair and proper consideration of the individual and comparative merits of Shapley Heath, and have pre-determined decisions in respect of Shapley Heath, which they regard as “secured” already.

c. Absent the clearest evidence going forward that the relevant Councillors recant the misleading and pre-determined approach to Shapley Heath as “secured for the next planning period”, their participation in future decision-making of the Council (including when Cabinet grapples with Paper D in early November 2019) would render such decisions susceptible to being quashed by way of application for judicial review.

d. In my view, the relevant Councillors must publicly acknowledge the misleading character of the words used in the letter and must publicly disassociate themselves from the sentiment in question (that Shapley Heath has been “secured for the next planning period”), and their future conduct in so far as they desire to have further involvement in relevant Council decision-making must (and not as mere “lip service”) positively demonstrate a genuine willingness to consider matters with an open mind. Where a relevant Councillor is unable or unwilling to adhere to the foregoing, the natural inference will be that the closed minds evident from the July 2019 letter have infected the decision in question.

e. A relevant Councillor who is unable or unwilling to take the foregoing steps, must recuse themselves from Council decision-making which is related, directly or indirectly, to Shapley Heath.

 

Andrew Tabachnik QC opinion

 

 

CCH oversee Hart Finance Fiasco

 

CCH oversee Hart Finance fiasco

CCH oversee Hart Finance fiasco

Hart Council finances are in disarray. First, the auditor has been unable to complete their work on time, because Hart, and its service provider Capita has not met the deadlines to produce accurate figures. Second, Hart’s accounts have had to be published without an audit opinion, with 8 material issues and 6 significant issues outstanding. Finally, Hart’s own Overview and scrutiny committee has condemned the accounts as “incomprehensible”.

The audit was supposed to be complete by the end of July and will not now be completed until September with no specific date yet set.  CCH cabinet member and deputy leader, James Radley, is responsible for finance, so he must carry the can for this fiasco.

EY unable to audit accounts on time

Hart finance fiasco: EY cannot complete audit on time

EY unable to audit accounts by deadline

EY unable to audit accounts by deadline

In their progress report, EY identified 8 material issues to be resolved.

Hart Finance fiasco - 8 material issues

Hart Finance fiasco – 8 material issues

The scale of these issues makes it difficult to believe the accuracy of the unaudited reported accounts.

Overview and Scrutiny on the case of Hart Finance Fiasco

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee picked up on this in July. O&S criticised Hart’s revenue accounts saying that:

  • It was disappointed with the format,
  • The accounts were incomprehensible and
  • Without a clear and transparent auditable link from the appendix to the main report recommendations.
Overview and Scrutiny disappointed

Hart Finance Fiasco: Overview and Scrutiny disappointed

CCH cabinet member, James Radley in charge of Finance was quizzed about his role at the recent full Council meeting. Minutes can be found here.

Councillor Radley quizzed on his role in the Hart finance shambles

Councillor Radley quizzed on his role in the Hart finance shambles

Here is the header of the report:

Hart finance shambles report published in name of James Radley

Report published in name of James Radley

It does seem rather odd that Capita are not obliged to produce auditable accounts by the required deadline.

Joint CEO’s: Nothing to report

Quite remarkably, at last week’s council meeting, the joint-CEO’s had nothing substantive to report. Yes, that’s right, the accounts are incomprehensible, unaudited, not auditable and will have to be published without an audit opinion and they have nothing to say.

Hart Finance Fiasco – CEOs nothing to report

Detail of Hart Finance Fiasco

We have looked at the detail of the reports examined by O&S. The main report suggests an underspend of £369K in the revenue accounts. But the supporting appendix shows an overspend of £713K, but miraculously, this changes to a surplus of £27K after adjustments. But this relies on the budget being adjusted to -£27K, with only £1 of actual expenditure. None of these figures can be reconciled to the reported £369K surplus.

Recommended underspend of £369K.

Recommended Underspend of £369K.

 

Hart recorded overspend of £713K adjusted to £27K surplus

Recorded overspend of £713K adjusted to £27K surplus.

The difference between the £713K deficit to the reported £369K surplus is more than £1m on an overall revenue budget of ~£6m. We struggle to see how our money is being effectively controlled.

This is clearly an embarrassment for service provider Capita. We also question the competence of CCH Deputy Leader James Radley who takes responsibility for Finance and the joint Chief Executives.

It remains to be seen how they sort out this mess. Apparently, Capita are presenting to Overview and Scrutiny on 20th August.

The O&S minutes can be found here.

The main report submitted to O&S can be found here and the Appendix can be found here.

 

 

Angela Delaney’s undeclared links to Barratts under investigation

Councillor Angela Delaney fails to declare Barratts interests at meeting

Angela Delaney undeclared links to Barratts under investigation

Councillor Angela Delaney has apparently undeclared links to Barratts that have been reported to Hart Council’s monitoring officer by We Heart Hart.

[Update: Council’s response and my reply]

The complaint produces evidence to show the Community Campaign Hart councillor has significant undeclared links to Barratt Developments. Councillor Delaney declared her partner’s significant shareholding in Barratt Developments. However, her 50% ownership of the company she jointly owns with her husband was not disclosed. Nor was it disclosed that her company lists Barratts as a client.

The complaint shows that Councillor Delaney attended the recent Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. That meeting covered the role of the developers (which include Barratts) in the new town governance arrangements. Of course, the developers will benefit greatly if the proposal to build 5,000 houses is approved. Her links to Barratts were not declared at the meeting. It is alleged that this breaches the Hart Council Code of Conduct. The failure properly to declare her interests may also be an offence under the Localism Act.

Councillor Delaney is one of the founders of Stop Elvetham Chase. We have supported her campaign, but have always been puzzled by the contrast in Councillor Delaney’s positions. She has been strongly opposed to Elvetham Chase (aka Pale Lane) and been a passionate advocate of the Winchfield new town. Elvetham Chase is promoted by Wates. Wates is apparently not a client of her company. However, Winchfield New Town, that is adjacent to Elvetham Chase is promoted by Barratts, Gallagher Estates and Lightwood. Barratts is listed as a client of her company, St Swithins Construction.

Elvetham chase adjacent to Winchfield New Town

Elvetham chase adjacent to Winchfield New Town

The evidence in the formal complaint is reproduced below.

Angela Delaney Declaration of Interests

Councillor Delaney declared her interests in May 2018. These included her employment with St Swithins Construction.

Angela Delaney employed by St Swithins Construction

Angela Delaney employed by St Swithins Construction

Councillor Delaney also declared her partner’s significant shareholding in Barratt Developments

Angela Delaney partner owns shares in Barratt Homes

Angela Delaney’s partner owns shares in Barratt Homes

However, she failed to declare her 50% shareholding in St Swithins Construction, that lists its place of business in the District. We believe this is a technical breach of the declaration rules.

St Swithins Construction Ownership

Councillor Delaney is listed as a director of St Swithins Construction at Companies House.

Angela Delaney Director of St Swithins Construction

Angela Delaney Director of St Swithins Construction

She is also listed as holder of 50% of the shares in the company according to the most recent Annual Return, dated 2016.

Angela Delaney owns half of St Swithins Construction

Angela Delaney owns half of St Swithins Construction

St Swithins Construction Client List

However, the website of St Swithins Construction lists Barratts as a client. This indicates a far closer relationship with Barratts than has been declared.

St Swithins Construction client list includes Barratts

St Swithins Construction client list includes Barratts

This is not disclosed in her declaration of interests.

Angela Delaney participates in meeting that includes how Hart will govern relationship with new town developers

The Overview and Scrutiny meeting that took place on 16 October 2018 covered the new town governance and resourcing arrangements. The minutes of the meeting show that councillor Delaney participated in the meeting.

Angela Delaney attends Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting

Angela Delaney attends Hart Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting Minutes 16 October 2018

However, she didn’t declare her interests in Barratts at the meeting. Indeed, no declarations of interest were made at all.

No Interests declared at Hart Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting Minutes 16 October 2018

No Interests declared at Hart Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting Minutes 16 October 2018

The meeting covered the new town governance arrangements and Hart Council’s relationship with the developers, which of course include Barratts. The meeting also covered how the council would spend nearly £1.5m preparing for the new town. The council is also seeking support from the developers in the form of cash or people. Of course, the developers will greatly benefit if granted permission to build 5,000 houses.

Hart Council to squander £1.5m on new town planning

Hart to spend nearly £1.5m on new town planning

 

Role of developers Barratt Homes on the agenda

Role of developers including Barratt Homes on the agenda

 

Role of developers Barratt Homes on the agenda

Developers including Barratts proposed as project team members

 

Role of developers Barratt Homes on the agenda

Developers’ role including Barratts on the agenda

Consequences of failure properly to declare interests

Hart Council’s code of conduct states that councillors must disclose their interests at any meeting of the council and not participate in discussion.

Councillors must declare interests in meetings and not participate in discussion

Hart Code of Conduct. Councillors must declare interests in meetings and not participate in discussion

We believe that Councillor Delaney’s failure properly to declare her interests, together with her participation in the O&S meeting represents a breach of this code.

It may also be an offence under the Localism Act to fail properly to declare interests.

Angela Delaney's Failure properly to declare interests may be an offence

Failure properly to declare interests may be an offence

We await the results of the investigation. We will of course allow Councillor Delaney the right of reply should she choose to get in touch.