Next week the Council will debate the budget for the next financial year. The draft budget for FY2021-22 has been published. It shows that they plan to burn £279K on the Shapley Heath project. Yet at the same time, they are cutting budgets for vital services:
- The budget for Homelessness will be cut by over £100K compared to the current year
- They are proposing to cut £600K from the grants given to voluntary organisations compared to pre-Covid spending. In prior years, these grants have typically gone to The Blue Lamp Trust and the YOU Trust that focus on Domestic Abuse, as well as Hart Voluntary Action.
- The budget for Fleet Pond will be cut from £53K this year to £21K next. This compares to a budget of over £130K in FY19/20.
Meanwhile, the cost of the Leadership team rises from £578K this year (and £720K last year) to £830K next. Overall, they are forecasting a budget deficit of £381K. Moreover, we can find no budget line to cover regeneration of Fleet or other urban centres. Not even the Civic Quarter regeneration is mentioned.
We need to put a stop to this madness at the ballot box.
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The detail is explained below, but you might be interested in this little 1 minute video.
Shapley Heath Burning Money 2021-22 Budget
The budget for Shapley Heath is buried on page 134 of the budget pack on the link above. It shows a total budget of £279,167.
This shows they plan to spend £128K on internal staff costs and a staggering £122K on internal recharges. These recharges include nearly £30K on IT, almost £26K on “Financial Services Recharges” and the best part of £24K on “Corporate Admin Support” charges. A further £18K will be spent on “Building Facilities”.
The Stakeholder Forum papers call for a myriad of studies and reports to be completed by October 2021. For instance, the Homes and Heritage Thematic Group needs to produce reports on Housing Type and Tenure, Urban Design, Heritage and Landscape/Gaps. The Sustainable Transport group has to commission reports on “Modal Shift” and “Transport Nodes”. However, less than 10% of the budget will be spent on external help to produce all of the reports and studies that will be required. When preparing the Local Plan, most of these types of reports were commissioned externally, as the Council can’t employ all of the specialist skills required. So, they are spending a massive £250K on internal resources to manage an external spend of £25K.
We have no idea how they managed to get consultants to pay them £68K this year, as they have already spent over £27K on PR.
Interestingly, they are assuming that they will receive no further Government support grants for the project. Surely, without Government support the project is dead in the water, because it was struck out of the Local Plan as not required.
Cuts to Vital Services
Despite the largesse on Shapley Heath, they are proposing to cut over £100K from the Homelessness Budget compared to this year and over £600K from the Grants Budget compared to pre-Covid times.
This year, and in previous years, the money has been granted to organisations such as The You Trust and the Blue Lamp Trust that focus on Domestic abuse. In addition, Hart Voluntary Action has been the recipient of significant grants. How can they justify cutting vital services whilst splurging cash on Shapley Heath.
In addition, revenue spending on the much-loved Fleet Pond is being cut. However, there is a significant capital programme planned, funded from S106 payments.
This marks a long term decline in spending from over £169K in 2018/19 to just £21K in 2021/22.
Massive Increase in Leadership Team Costs
Against this backdrop, it’s surprising to see the cost of the Leadership Team rocketing. They are proposing to increase the budget from £578K this year to over £830K next. It might be argued that some of lower costs this year might be down to Covid. However, the budget has still increased by more than £100K over the level in 2019/20.
What great leadership. Spending more on yourselves, lots more on a project we don’t need while cutting vital services. We must put an end to this madness at the ballot box.