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.

 

Shapley Heath Survey Results – Bin this development

Shapley Heath Survey Results - Bin This Development

Shapley Heath Survey Results – Bin This Development

The results are in. Hart have finally published the answers to the Shapley Heath Garden Community Survey they ran over the summer. The results of the freeform comments are overwhelming: Hart residents do not want Shapley Heath to happen. In fact one comment urged the Council to bin the project. And that was one of the more polite comments.

The summary paper can be found here, and the full detailed results here.

The summary paper tries to put a brave face on things, claiming:

A sizeable number of respondents used template answers published by a local campaign group. Many of the template responses used similar wording throughout the survey. In many cases, these template responses did not answer the question being asked, but expressed a general objection to the project.

Do they mean us? Yes, we did publish a handy guide to the survey. However, what is most remarkable is the level of creativity in the freeform answers. Very few answers were verbatim copies of our guide. Some of the more entertaining responses are shown below, including the plea to “bin this development”. The summary report omits to mention the scale of Hart’s own promotional activity. There was an extensive Facebook ad campaign and they produced a number of promotional videos.

Most of the respondents came from Hartley Wintney parish. It is interesting that despite much higher populations, there were relatively few respondents from Fleet and Church Crookham. This indicates that CCH failed to mobilise their own supporters to respond to the survey. Virtually nobody from Yateley or Blackwater responded to the survey, indicating that nobody really cares about Shapley Heath in the Lib Dem strongholds.

Below is an image bringing together the significant comments from the summary report.

Shapley Heath Survey Responses

Shapley Heath Survey Responses

Shapley Heath Survey Results – Most Entertaining Comments

We have skimmed the results and picked out the results we found most entertaining.

Community Identity Section

The garden community will do nothing to enhance Hart’s local identity, and it should be cancelled now. The best place for an attractive and vibrant centre with public spaces can best be achieved through the regeneration of Fleet town centre.

The community of Hart does NOT want to see the rural parts of the district destroyed in order to facilitate the CCH/LibDem vanity project of Shapley Heath. The community identity will be best served by cancelling these
plans forthwith.

Please don’t build the Shapley Heath Garden Community.

Don’t build it, we live in villages, we don’t want urban sprawl.

Hart already has a clear identity. It has an historic countryside and green fields at it’s heart which would be destroyed by the Shapely Heath development. DO NOT BUILD IT. Hart does need urban regeneration to make Fleet in particular more attractive to live in and visit.

This is the first proper countryside one reaches on the trains departing from London. It is part of north Hampshire’s rural heritage. Is MUST NOT be built on.

I consider Shapely Heath development should be cancelled in order to preserve the existing rural character of the area and concentrate on the regeneration of Fleet which is badly needed.

WE DON’T NEED SHAPLEY HEATH. THIS IS A STUPID IDEA.

Yes, Hart does have a unique identity. Most of that unique identity derives from its mix of urban, semi-rural and rural areas dotted across the landscape as separate, unique, distinct communities. As your map shows, a new town in the Heart of Hart would effectively create a single conurbation, obliterating Winchfield and joining Fleet, Crookham Village, Dogmersfield, Hartley Wintney, Hook and Odiham together. This would destroy the main attraction of Hart and so the best way to preserve that identity would be to abandon the project altogether.

Yes and the current green spaces around Winchfield are a key part of that. It beggars belief that you would want to destroy that to build houses that aren’t even required to meet targets. No one wants this.

Sustainable Community Section

You have totally ignored the need to invest in road and rail infrastructure. Prior studies into a new settlement in this location discussed extending the car parks and platforms at the stations; potentially a new station;
improving the existing road network, building new roads and even the potential for a new motorway junction. The most sustainable option would be to retain the rural nature and green space in the area. So, the best way
of ensuring this project is “sustainable” is not to do it at all. Cancel it now.

The opening statement is beyond presumptive and directing the answers whilst perpetuating a myth that development can be dressed up with greenwashing – this question cannot be answered honestly.

Why are you asking me hypothetical questions – I am completely against turning any area of Hart into a Garden Community – unless you want to follow all the garden community principles properly instead of cherry picking the ones you might be able to achieve. Have you actually listened to Lord Taylor of Goss Moor? You’ve got him on the payroll and he talks a lot of good sense about the requirements for land value capture,
infrastructure first, room for growth. you wont stand up to the developers to get any of those, you will sacrifice Winchfield to coalesce with Hartley Wintney, Hook and Dogmersfield with no room for proper growth, no
centre to the community, no land bought at sensible rates. Never mind ‘future facilities’ – get the fundamental first principles right.

We don’t want a garden “village”!!

We do not need this development, this positive spin is crass.

Leaving the space as it is for environmental reasons and quality of life for people already living here and paying council tax.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Community Connection Question

Yes. The open land and woods of the country side, most of which you intend to destroy. Cancel as soon as possible.

Yes, the green spaces that this development will destroy.

I strongly oppose SHGV and this survey is a farce.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Governance Question

Cancel this project, stop wasting money on this crazy project.

Certainly not Hart District Council.

This is a very biased survey. It assumes the project will go ahead in the way the questions are asked. HDC’s management of planning and history suggest HDC should not be allowed anywhere near this project. Their
handling of this whole process over a number of years can only be described as pathetic.

I read the Lib Dem leaflet at the last election where it clearly stated that the Shapley Heath project was not going ahead and that the Tories were telling lies by stating that it is. Why therefore are you doing this survey
which is heavily slanted towards giving the green light to it. Who was telling the lies?????

Hart already has its building quota agreed by the Planning Inspector J Manning. This proposal is grotesque conceived by idiots having a pique over rejection of their fanciful plans for that known as “Winchook”. This is
simply another badly thought through scheme by an incompetent Lib DEM / CCH alliance.

There is no requirement for this development and I strongly object to it.

This is a ridiculous question. No one wants this settlement.

We already have open spaces and countryside! JUST CANCEL THE ENTIRE PROJECT!

Anyone except the HDC!

There is a CLIMATE EMERGENCY abandon this project.

Shapley Heath GV was removed from the Local Plan by the inspector in 2019 as he deemed it unnecessary. It is still unnecessary.

NOT HART COUNCIL. NOT FIT TO RUN A KEBAB VAN.

You ask me how you should proceed. Not if. This is wrong. The Hampshire majority believe, (1) SHGV is not needed. (2) SHGV should only be studied once it has been shown to be the best development option (3)
SHGV is an unnecessarily climate-damaging development (4) SHGV damages the possibility of Fleet development / redevelopment (5) There is no room for a Garden Village in the Winchfield area.

I really am not sure of the best answer to this question. However, based on the conduct of Hart D C in recent years they should not be let anywhere near it. If Hart D C listened to the majority opinion of sensible residents
THE PROJECT SHOULD BE CANCELLED NOW!

It’s tempting to say something about a blend of councillors, piano wire and lampposts, but I will refrain.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Exercise Questions

Local public footpaths, heaths, wildlife areas, streets and areas around my home in the countryside which you are planning to destroy. Cancel the project now.

Stupid question by a stupid council.

I walked miles around the canal and village as did many others – the area that you are planning to destroy.

The local countryside. Odd that isn’t an option! Or are you just massaging the survey to give you the answers you want?

Dogging hotspots.

Resilience Questions

Shapley Heath will damage the local environment and amenity, will not help with the economic future of the area, will harm the ability to absorb, recover and prepare for environmental changes – response to this survey
does NOT endorse Shapley Heath, now or later. I DO NOT SUPPORT SHAPLEY HEATH #STOP SHAPLEY HEATH.

You are planning to destroy important agricultural and leisure land in order to build thousands od dwellings that are not needed or wanted. Please consider the planet first and help to maintain the agricultural land and
green lungs that provide our food and fresh air. Please cease all work on this project.

The best way to protect our environment is to avoid unnecessary development of green areas. Cancel these plans now.

The best way to prepare for future environmental change is to keep our green spaces that can be used to produce food, act as a carbon sink and provide amenity space for residents of urban areas. Cancel the project
now.

The open countryside should be preserved. It is an asset for all and it contributes to a healthy environment.

None of the above, as we want to keep the local villages.

This survey is a poor use of tax payers money and time. There is no good evidence to support the creation of the SHGV and most local residents feel that it is being bulldozered through by local authorities. Using this
‘consultation’ as a means to paper over the cracks of the lack of logic or support for SHGV is poor.

The phrase “garden community “is an anathema. I would refer you to the inspector’s comments on the local plan – a new settlement is not necessary.

Building homes on brownfield sites and not greenfield. Not building on floodplains.

Natural and Historic Environment

This is where the kind and sensitive CCH supporters reared their heads:

No. Concrete the lot – just don’t build more bloody houses in Fleet and Church Crookham

But others has their say too:

In 2019 the Inspector ruled that SHGV could not be reintroduced into the Local Plan until it had been shown (with proper evidence and a public consultation) to be the best strategy when compared to alternative strategies (including other locations and urban regeneration). This work has not been done so SHGV is premature.

As long as CCH councillors and their developer partners make lots of money then that is the main thing.

The cancellation of this unnecessary proposed project would be the most important measure you could adopt to ensure that the natural and historic environment of the local area is reflected and respected.

Don’t build this unwanted village.

Yes, by not building on it in the first place. Cancel the project.

Just to repeat myself again please stop wasting precious public money which could be better spent in so many other ways in the district.

This whole survey is based on the assumption that the Shapley Heath Garden Community is desirable. It is not. And furthermore it is not necessary, it is merely being proposed so that the Fleet Councillors can avoid
improving Fleet.

Yes. Abandon this senseless charade. SHGV was removed from the local plan by the inspector. Your own declaration of a Climate Emergency means Shapley is unjustifiable, especially when regenerating Fleet Town is the common sense solution and would retain the green spaces between Hook, Odiham and Fleet. Persevering with this senseless Garden Village is putting off developers putting forward proposals for regenerating Fleet so wise up.

Transport Questions

There are already so many cyclists, runners, walkers, horseriders, etc. If you’re desperate tospend money on the area, why not introduce lots more safe cycle paths? Why does it have to be accompanied by a great big
new garden community?

Ensuring proper transport capacity should be the primary concern. Building new roads, enhancing existing roads and adding rail capacity to ensure that the extra traffic movements generated by any new development do not negatively impact existing residents and settlements.

The mainline to/from Waterloo does not have capacity for more trains, therefore the already overcrowded services (outside of pandemic), so how can a new community more than twice the size of Church Crookham be
accommodated?

None of this is relevant, since we do not need a new mini-town. It is misleading to call it a garden anything.

In April 2021 HDC declared a Climate Emergency and promised to ‘put the reduction of CO2 at the front and centre of all policies and formal decision-making’. The Local Plan has recognised that Fleet has fallen behind
as a town and that this has caused an ‘outflow of retail expenditure from the District…[which] is relatively high and is likely to remain high in the future” [Local Plan para 65]. This outflow equates to unnecessary travel which is highly carbon inefficient. Therefore, HDC should be investing in a plan to regenerate Fleet as the best way to reduce Hart carbon emissions.

The best option is not to introduce 10-20,000 people to the countryside at all. If we wanted to live in a town we would have bought a house in Fleet.

This is a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of a question. These are blue sky objectives that assume a garden project will be built. The best way to make the transport system more sustainable is to not build 5-10,000
unnecessary houses in addition to the Local Plan. Cancel the project.

Pandemic Travel Questions

This is totally irrelevant, because if this is ever built, the pandemic will be long gone. Plus, it tells you nothing about what the future residents might do. Cancel the project now.

How is this relevant to future plans… You can’t base future needs on the past year.

I worked at home and took breaks in the countryside you want to destroy.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Pandemic Shopping Questions

An irrelevant question for this survey. Cancel Shapley Heath.

Why is this relevant? The pandemic will be long gone when and if this development actually takes place. My belief is that we don’t need it and it should be cancelled.

Cancel the project now.

Irrelevant question as pandemic will be over.

None of the above, I object to this project. The development is NOT required.

This is a waste of money.

School run questions

Where’s the option for kids to stay at home? Useless question, like a lot of the policies Hart council dreams up.

I keep an ostrich in the garage. We sat on it’s back and together, shot through the traffic no problem at all. Cancel the Shapley Heath project now.

MIND YOUR BUSINESS! This project has NOTHING to do with Covid. Cancel it now!

An irrelevant question for this survey. Cancel Shapley Heath.

Daft question. Cancel the project.

Quality of Life Questions

Please keep the existing countryside as it is to best help my mental health. The threat of this project is having a detrimental effect on my mental health. Please stop it now.

Keeping the existing fields, woodland and habitats will be the best thing to promote my health, wellbeing and quality of life. Cancel the project now.

Don’t build and you won’t ruin what’s already here.

More than happy with the existing fields and woodland, which you will destroy. Cancel the project now.

Leaving nature alone. This development is NOT NECESSARY.

I don’t like answering this as the whole project should be dropped.

Ecology and Biodiversity Questions

Building 2,000, 5,000 or up to 10,000 new houses in the countryside will irreparably damage the ecology and biodiversity. The only way to protect and enhance them is to cancel the project now.

You can’t build biodiversity, it takes thousands of years to develop. This housing development will create a wasteland for animals. Planting a tree after you cut down a ancient forest is tokenistic, the local community
already enjoys this wonderful environment.

The optimum improvement would be actively protecting green spaces, woodland and natural areas and improving them. Concreting over them, building houses on them, increasing traffic and pollution, is only harming what’s left of our beautiful countryside.

The existing countryside has worked for centuries. Don’t interfere with it.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Future Proofing Questions

Re-purpose empty office buildings in a post covid working environment.

Invest in our existing communities and protecting all countryside – abandon the focus on building a new town as it is ridiculous and would destroy hart. It’s only benefit is giving money to the council to bail it out due
to the mismanagement since CCH and LibDems took control.

I don’t want the garden community.

You can best future proof the area by cancelling the Shapley Heath Garden Community project.

Don’t ruin the already existing communities.

The best way to future-proof our district is to protect our green fields, protect the woodlands, SINCs, SSSI’s. They enhance well being and quality of life, provide food, habitat and carbon sinks. Cancel the project
now.

The best thing that can be done is to cancel the whole idea and protect our wonderful environment.

Technological Opportunities

Most of the items here are not in the gift of the council to deliver. We do not want a wood-burning
power plant or windmills and before even considering intelligent transport solutions, make sure you
put in the proper investment into road and rail capacity.Of course, the best thing you could do would be to leave this area alone and keep it as an area of peace and calm and a place to escape from technology. Cancel the project now.

Leave countryside alone – do not build huge, sprawling, soulless estates on natural countryside.

Yes. One where the voters of the community can be heard by CCH so that they stop Shapley Heath.

This is outside of the council’s gift to deliver, so any such proposals make your vanity project even more ridiculous. Cancel Shapley Heath now.

Bear in mind that futuristic forecasts seldom happen as envisaged so trying to second guess them is futile. They will come into use in different ways than you expect. Just make the best use of the developed land we
have and the new technology will be fitted into that as it has to be to serve all the existing residents. A whole new garden community requires so much infrastructure that you seem unlikely to be able to provide anyway
that second guessing seems entirely pointless. Why not spend the money you have been allocated to do the studies it is supposed to be funding and also spend money on eg the homeless instead of cutting the budget
for that. Please stop wasting taxpayers’ money in this way.

This is total pie in the sky, unrealistic How could this information be used in practice by Hart dealing with profit motivated developers intent on keeping costs low to maximise profit.

The countryside should be kept as it is because once lost it is lost forever. The emphasis should be placed on regeneration and improving built up areas of Hart. Please do not build Shapley Heath New Town.

Hart Massively Underestimates Infrastructure Funding Gap

Hart Massively Under-Estimates Infrastructure Funding Gap

Hart Massively Under-Estimates Infrastructure Funding Gap

Hart has recently launched a consultation about Community Infrastructure Levy or CIL. The consultation materials contain an updated Infrastructure Delivery Plan. Well, they call it a plan but as we shall see, that is something of an over-statement.

The “plan” indicates that there is an Infrastructure Funding Gap of £57.9m. This sounds a lot, but is actually an improvement on the £72.3m reported in 2017. We have summarised the funding gap shown in this paper from Hart in the image below:

Hart Infrastructure Plan 72% uncosted

Hart Infrastructure Plan 72% un-costed

The trouble is, the new figure is a massive under-estimate of the true picture. Why do we say this? As you can see from the image above, 116 of the 161 identified projects do not yet have confirmed costs. That’s right, they don’t even know the costs of nearly three quarters, or 72% of the projects they have identified. Of course, they don’t have any funding for those projects either, so the actual funding gap must be much wider than they claim.

There’s also a catalogue of errors and omissions throughout the Infrastructure Delivery Plan document:

  • Green Infrastructure Projects un-costed and unfunded
  • Healthcare projects un-costed and unfunded
  • S106 contributions over-allocated
  • Duplicated Projects

Green Infrastructure Projects Un-costed and Unfunded

None of the district wide green infrastructure projects have been costed. They are supposed to be funded by unspecified developer contributions and CIL that is already going to close the £57.9m gap. This is despite all of the projects being classified as “Immediate and Ongoing” and Hart being named as a lead agency on most of them. This plan doesn’t seem to even include the much promoted “green grid”.

Hart Green Infrastructure Plans uncosted

Hart Green Infrastructure Plans un-costed and unfunded

Healthcare Projects Un-costed and Unfunded

None of the healthcare projects has been costed. None have any funding allocated. The funding gap in unknown. To be fair to Hart, the funding should come from the NHS or central Government. However, this perhaps gives an indication why local GP surgeries are struggling.

Hart Healthcare projects uncosted and unfunded

Hart Healthcare projects un-costed and unfunded

Infrastructure Funding Gap – Over-allocated S106 contributions

By way of example, we searched for all the places the £1.42m S106 contribution for Netherhouse Copse (now Hareshill) was mentioned. It turns out that it is mentioned as a source of funding for projects with costs totalling £6.12m. Some of the Watery Lane (now Albany Park) money is also earmarked for some of the projects. Some of the projects the £1.42m is supposed to fund, don’t even have costs. So, the funding is over-allocated by a factor of at least 4.

Hart Infrastructure Funding Over Allocated

Hart Infrastructure Funding Over Allocated

Duplicated Projects

On some occasions, projects appear to have been duplicated. In this example, projects TR4 and TR21 appear to be cover the same improvements and have the same estimated costs.

Apparently duplicated Hart Infrastructure Projects

Apparently duplicated Hart Infrastructure Projects

 

Infrastructure Funding Gap Conclusions

It is clear that Hart has not got a grip on the Infrastructure Delivery Plan. It is simply not acceptable for 72% of the projects to remain un-costed at this stage. Remember the CCH leader promised “an infrastructure led Local Plan”. Yet, the plan they have shows a massive funding gap. They don’t have any idea about costs or funding sources for nearly three quarters of the promised projects. They have over-allocated large parts of the funding. It is clear the infrastructure plan is not going to be delivered.

If you still think Shapley Heath would deliver the promised infrastructure nirvana, I have an un-costed, unfunded and unbuilt bridge to sell you.

 

 

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.

 

5-Year Land Supply Blows Shapley Heath Out of the Water

5-Year Land Supply Blows Shapley Heath Out of the Water

5-Year Land Supply Blows Shapley Heath Out of the Water

A new announcement was made at Council on Thursday, in response to one of our questions. They announced that the new 5-year land supply shows Hart has over 10 years of land supply. Not only that, the Housing Delivery Test will be met up to around 2028.  Their whole justification for pursuing Shapley Heath in the first place was as an “insurance policy”.

Unfortunately, we were unable to be at the meeting, even remotely. However, the Chairman agreed to read out our questions for us. The announcement and questions are shown below, with short video clips of the answers. They covered:

  1. 5-Year land supply announcement
  2. A request for an outline of the activities and timescales for the Local Plan review
  3. Demanding a specific date for the publication of the Shapley Heath survey
  4. Asking for the cost savings arising from stopping the Shapley Heath project early
  5. A question about the costs of having two joint-CEOs, compared to other councils that share CEOs and senior management teams.

There’s another clip of Councillor Kinnell flouncing out of the meeting after being asked some straightforward questions about the Dog Warden service.

5-Year Land Supply Blows Shapley Heath Out of the Water

Here is the announcement about the 5-year land supply:

The key points to note are that the Housing Delivery Test will be met until at least 2028 and Hart has 10 years of land supply.  The full document can be found here.

Q1: Local Plan Review Activities and Timelines

Hart needs a revised Local Plan in place by five years from adoption, which is April 2025. Various steps will need to be completed such as Examination and various consultations. The Council will also need to find sites to meet the housing delivery test and make adjustments resulting from new household projections due to be published in 2023. The Inspector also said that “appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments [and] viability testing would need to be done in an impartial manner”. Can you sketch out the broad activities and timelines required to meet the April 2025 deadline?

The answer is shown in the video below.

We think the Council has got its head in the sand, because the National Planning Policy Guidance is fairly clear that Local Plans need to be reviewed every five years. If there is any ambiguity, surely it would be prudent to plan for the worst case scenario. We are reminded of the aphorism, failure to plan is to plan to fail.

Local Plan Review Guidance

Local Plan Review Guidance: land Supply Blows Shapley Heath out of the Water

Q2: Shapley Heath Survey Results

At the September Council meeting we were promised that the Shapley Heath survey results were going to be published “in full” (subject to GDPR check) “shortly”. Most reasonable people would have expected “shortly” to mean within a couple of weeks. They are still being kept secret, with a vague commitment to publish sometime in the New Year. Can you give a precise deadline for when these important results will be made available to the taxpayers of Hart who paid for the survey?

The answer is shown in the video below:

We can now expect the survey to be published on 13 December. However, they leave the door open to later publication if they have not received other surveys. However, there are no other surveys, just baseline studies many of which have been completed for some time.

Q3: Financial Benefits of Terminating Shapley Heath

Back in September we were promised a “a business case for the cost benefit analysis of starting to commence the preparation for the next local plan review”. Subsequent papers have been notable because they contained no costs and no benefits of stopping Shapley Heath and changing course. Are we to assume that all of the FY21/22 budget for Shapley Heath has been spent already, despite the project being terminated early, and so no savings will be made, or is this just another example of weak financial controls?

The answer is shown in the video below.

It seems that Councillor Radley thinks our question is disingenuous, because there are no examples of weak financial controls.  First, he says that the full year outturn is going to be £135K against a budget (after the £130K Government grant) of £149K. It seems odd that they have spent most of the budget in just over half the year. Even odder that they are continuing to spend money on a project that’s been stopped.

There are many other examples of weak financial controls. First, they spent £90K against a £50k budget for New Settlement in FY18/19 and £283K against a zero budget in FY20/21. Second, they lost over £1m in relation to the Waste Contract and finally, even the S151 officer said that they needed to “make sure that our financial controls are fully, fully embedded” in the organisation.  Why do they need to do that if the controls are already solid?

Q4: Why Two CEOs?

As you know, Hart is facing a significant structural budget deficit for the foreseeable future. The Level 1 and Level 2 savings identified so far do not fill the financial black hole. Nearby East Hampshire and Havant councils get along fine with just one CEO and senior management team shared between them. Yet Hart, one of the smallest local authorities in the country, has two CEOs. What actions are you taking to ensure this shameful waste of taxpayers’ money does not continue?

The answer is shown in the video below:

At least the Councillor Neighbour has moved on from insisting the budget is balanced. But he seems to have his head in the sand about the costs of Hart’s senior leadership. We covered leadership costs here, where we showed that Hart’s leadership team cost over £540K per annum, whereas the combined team for Havant and East Hampshire is £333K. His comparison of staff paid over £50K is likely distorted by different levels of outsourcing.

Councillor Neighbour challenged our claim that Hart was one of the smallest local authorities. He said there were 64 authorities smaller than Hart. There’s 333 local authorities in England. This puts Hart into the smallest quintile of authorities. This means that 80% of local authorities are larger than Hart; we think that makes Hart one of the smallest.

Councillor Kinnell Flounces Out

We could not leave out the scene of Councillor Sara Kinnell flouncing out of the meeting after fielding a fairly innocuous question about dog wardens.

This isn’t the first time we have seen dramatic behaviour from Councillor Kinnell. If she can’t cope with fairly innocuous questions, then it might be better for her health if she reconsiders her position as a Cabinet member.

 

Hart Terminates Shapley Heath Collaboration Agreement

Hart Terminates Shapley Heath Collaboration Agreement

Hart Terminates Shapley Heath Collaboration Agreement

Hart Council’s Cabinet last night voted unanimously to terminate the collaboration agreement it has had in place with developers since February of this year.

The vote was taken on an amendment to the published papers for the meeting. The original recommendations were as follows:

  1. A Local Plan review assessment is carried out once any ‘Planning Bill’ has passed through Parliament and the Government has issued any associated updated guidance.
  2. That the Shapley Heath Garden Community Project is concluded with immediate effect but that existing baseline studies and surveys proceed to completion and be published early in the new year.
  3. Cabinet agrees to the principle of seeking the commissioning of a ‘Settlement Capacity and Intensification Study’ to be funded through a drawn down from the Local Plan reserve.

At this stage we only have video evidence of the amendment to Recommendation 2 fom the meeting. We will update this post once the minutes have been published. The video below is edited to show just the amended recommendation and the eventual vote.

[Update:] Thematic Group Members Email [/Update]

Confirmation of Shapley Heath Termination

Confirmation of Shapley Heath Termination

Hart Terminates Shapley Heath Collaboration Agreement: Impact

The impact of this decision is very positive for the We Heart Hart Campaign. Not only have they stopped the Shapley Heath project, they have now also ended the agreement with developers.

They also voted to begin a process to review the Local Plan, in line with legislation. At this stage they are going to assess what might need to be done to the Local Plan in 2025. At the very least they will have to update the housing target numbers with the up to date numbers from the housing need methodology. This should reduce the annual requirement from 423dpa to 286 dpa. However, updated household projections, based on the 2021 census won’t be published until 2023. Each time new projections have been published, Hart’s housing target has been reduced. So, we can hope for even lower numbers.

The Cabinet also voted to undertake a “Settlement Capacity and Intensification Study”. This will look at how much of our additional housing could be built within the settlement boundaries of our existing urban centres. We have been calling for such a study for years, so welcome this about face from the Council.

However, it is clear that the Lib Dem/CCH coalition are carrying out these actions under duress. There was certainly no enthusiasm in their voices as they voted to end the project and terminate the collaboration agreement. They are still wedded to the idea of Shapley Heath.

No doubt the proposal will be back in the Local Plan review.

The video of the full item is shown below. Viewers may note the sometimes bad tempered exchanges as the Conservative Councillors observing the meeting tried to get to the bottom of how much Shapley Heath has cost. They also asked about when we are finally going to see the output.

 

Hart Faces Wave of Change

Hart Council Faces Wave of Change

Hart Faces Wave of Change

After seeing the many recent failures of Hart Council, it is inevitable that Hart will face a wave of change. The most pressing issue facing the council is the structural budget deficit. Even after the savings they have identified, a large deficit remains. This is clearly unsustainable for even a few years, so something radical needs to change, and quickly. The only question is, will Hart take the initiative and surf the wave of change. Or will it be overtaken by events and be destroyed by a tsunami beyond its control?

There are some potential ideas to consider:

  • Share resources with another Council
  • Be subsumed into a broader pan-Hampshire unitary authority

Hart Faces Wave of Change: Share Resources

By way of example, nearby Havant and East Hampshire councils have come to an arrangement to share resources. This has enabled them to make significant savings in for instance, the leadership team.

Hart currently has 2 full-time chief executives each costing over £122K per year in salaries, expenses and pension contributions. In addition, there is a full time S151/Head of Corporate Services Officer, a Head of Place, Head of Environmental and Technical Services and a Head of Community Services. Each of those roles costs nearly £100K on a full year basis. In total, the leadership team costs over £540K per year.

Hart Faces Wave of Change: Cost of Hart Council Leadership Team

Hart Faces Wave of Change: Cost of Hart Council Leadership Team

Between them, Havant and East Hampshire have a single chief executive, a director of Corporate Services/S151 and a Service Director of Regeneration and Place. In total the cost of the leadership team is £333K. This is shared between the two councils giving a cost for each of £166K.

Havant and East Hants Senior Salaries

Havant and East Hants Senior Salaries

It is simply untenable for Hart to have two chief executives when Havant and East Hampshire get along with just one between them. On leadership team alone there is a potential saving of £378K per year if an agreement could be reached with another council. Probably more once additional ancillary costs are taken into account. No doubt additional savings could be made in the lower ranks too from combining the workforces. Additional savings could likely be made in contracts, premises and IT systems too. It is probably feasible to eliminate the remaining deficits in 22/23 (£494K) and 23/24 (£703K) from such a combination.

Interestingly, both councils are forecasting surpluses in the medium term, even though they are both of similar size to Hart.

Hart Council Combination Candidates

Rushmoor

Having established that sharing resources between councils can work and deliver savings, it is time to look for potential candidates.

Perhaps the most obvious candidate would be neighbouring Rushmoor. However, their finances are an even bigger basket case than Hart’s. Rushmoor is forecasting a deficit of over £4m in FY23/24 and FY24/25. Moreover, they are also forecasting that their reserves will be totally depleted in FY23/24.

Rushmoor £4m deficit and depleted reserves

Rushmoor £4m deficit and depleted reserves

If you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, you certainly can’t make a silk purse from two sow’s ears.

Basingstoke and Deane

The other potential candidate is Basingstoke and Deane (B&D). B&D is about three times bigger than Hart, with an annual budget of around £32m. It is currently running a surplus, but is forecasting a deficit in FY23/24. Hart already shares the waste contract with B&D. Combining resources with B&D will no doubt lead to savings that could help both councils close the future funding gap.

Basingstoke and Deane MTFS

Basingstoke and Deane MTFS

Hart Faces Wave of Change: Pan-Hampshire Deal

Another development that we need to keep a lose eye on is the proposed “Pan-Hampshire Deal”. Hampshire County Council have produced a couple of documents about the proposals:

The idea is to seek a devolution deal from the Government covering the existing Hampshire County Council (HCC) area, plus the unitary authorities of Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. The idea is to seek more powers and responsibilities from Central Government along with extra funding.

This may well have a significant impact on the governance of the whole of Hampshire.  Two options are proposed:

  1. Maintenance of the present arrangements which will lead only to a possible County Deal for Hampshire County Council, with limited new powers and funding.
  2. Creation of a Pan-Hampshire Combined Authority involving the County Council, existing Unitary Authorities, Districts and Boroughs, to assume direct responsibility for new functions and to access new resources. This can
    be accompanied with collaborative structures around functions and areas through joint committees; direct business
    engagement and leadership on key economic priorities such as international trade & investment, innovation & skills; and wider engagement with public service providers.

Clearly, the second option to create a pan-Hampshire combined authority may well impact the structure of the existing authorities. There are almost certainly opportunities for significant cost savings. However, our fear is that such a move may create a local government leviathan that is too remote and unresponsive to the needs of a small district like Hart.

HCC are inviting views from partners and stakeholders. So we will have to see what transpires. But it may be that Hart gets subsumed into this bigger plan.

Hart Council Out Of Control

Hart Council Out of Control

Hart Council Out of Control

There’s a disturbing trend in Hart Council. Deadlines are being missed. Long standing meetings are being postponed. The finances are still not under control. These things all point to a Council that is out of control.  In summary:

  • Audit Committee Postponed
  • Medium Term finances still in deficit, despite savings being identified
  • Missing 5-year Land Supply
  • CIL proposal based on unpublished Infrastructure Plan
  • No progress on elements of the Local Development Scheme
  • Shapley Heath Deliverables Remain unpublished

Let’s look at the detail.

Audit Committee Postponed

An Audit Committee meeting was supposed to take place this week, but it has been postponed. This meeting was an important one; the purpose was to receive the audit letter and auditor’s report.

Hart Council Out of Control Audit Committee Postponed

Hart Council Out of Control Audit Committee Postponed

Medium Term finances still in deficit

The Council has been working to identify savings to close the black hole at the heart of their finances.  Some proposals were presented to O&S last week. However, the savings identified do not eliminate the deficit.

Hart Council Out of Control Medium Term Finances still in deficit

Hart Council Out of Control Medium Term Finances still in deficit

Hart Council Out of Control: Missing 5-year land supply

At O&S on 21 September, we were assured that the updated 5-year land supply was on track for delivery by the end of September. However, at last week’s O&S this had been pushed back to Christmas. It is very strange for something that was on track to be delivered within 9 days should suddenly suffer a three month delay. This is indicative of poor internal management and control.

5 year land supply on track end of September

5 year land supply on track end of September

5 year land supply pushed back to Christmas

5 year land supply pushed back to Christmas

CIL paper based on unpublished Infrastructure Delivery Plan

At last week’s O&S they discussed a proposed CIL charging schedule. The funding gap that the CIL is supposed to help close was based on an as yet unpublished Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP). This identifies a funding gap of £57.9m.

Hart Council Infrastructure Funding Gap of £58m

Hart Council Infrastructure Funding Gap of £58m

However, the latest published IDP came out around the time of the Local Plan. This showed a funding gap of £72.3m, but this did not include Social and Extra Care nor Countryside schemes. In fact many of the items on the IDP were un-costed and have no funding, to the real gap was even wider.

Hart Council Infrastructure Funding Gap of £72m

Hart Council Infrastructure Funding Gap of £72m

We should be able to scrutinise the new paper to see how the gap has miraculously fallen by ~£14m and whether the figures are realistic.

No Progress on Local Development Scheme

Back in 2019, the Council produced a Local Development Scheme. This sets out the timelines for delivery of all elements of the Local Plan and other development documents.

A DPD for Traveller sites was supposed to have been submitted to Government in June of this year.  Nothing has happened. There was supposed to be a Development Management DPD consultation in June of this year. Nothing has happened. Instead they carried out the survey about the totally unnecessary Shapley Heath project.

Local Development Scheme Deadlines Missed

Local Development Scheme Deadlines Missed

The simply cannot keep wasting time effort and our money on vanity project while they fail to produce key documents that are required.

Shapley Heath survey and baseline studies not yet published

Of course, the results of the Shapley Heath survey and Baseline Studies still haven’t been published. This is despite Councillor Cockarill promising that they would be published “very shortly” at the last Council meeting on 30th September. indeed he noted that if they hadn’t paused the project, the results would have been published to the Opportunity Board in September.

Some of the Baseline Studies were due to be published to the Opportunity Board originally scheduled for July 2021. They still haven’t been published. The current status is ambiguous, with some statements saying they will be “published promptly” and others saying we need to wait until the New Year.

Hart Council Out of Control

In addition, of course our green waste has not been collected for weeks on end. Overall, this paints an alarming picture of failure, obfuscation and secrecy. This cannot be allowed to continue.