Hart Cabinet next meets on Tuesday 1st September. On the agenda is the response to the Shapley Heath debacle. The Cabinet has been asked by the Audit Committee “to provide a response to the management recommendations contained within the Shapley Heath Audit Review report, and to review the application of project governance, financial controls, and reporting for the Shapley Heath project and to provide a response to Audit Committee on lessons learnt”.
The paper they are discussing recommends that they delegate the the part relating to management recommendations to the interim-S151 officer. Their proposal to review project governance, financial controls and reporting is to hold
“an independently facilitated reflection (perhaps supported by the LGA) that recognise[s] both the positives as well as any short comings in the application of the governance arrangements associated with the project”.
In short, they are going to spend even more money on an independent facilitator to reflect on why they spaffed over £800K up the wall and delivered nothing.
We might suggest that the section on “positives” is kept rather short, because there are none.
The shortcomings were numerous and wide-ranging as we documented here. Four of the Cabinet members were also on the Opportunity Board.
In effect they are going to be reflecting on which of them was the most incompetent. Is it Councillor Cockarill, who was chair of the Opportunity Board? Or is it Councillor Radley, because the project took place as part of his his Corporate Services portfolio? Might it be Councillor Neighbour, who as Leader of the Council should have been keeping a close eye on such a big piece of expenditure? Or should it be Councillor Bailey who seems to have been missing in action for the whole time?
Blame Everyone Else for Shapley Heath Debacle
At the last Council meeting, Councillor Cockarill did his best to blame everyone else for the debacle even though he was chair of the Opportunity Board. This included blaming his Cabinet colleagues who also sat on the Opportunity Board and throwing the officers under a bus. If he continues to insist he did nothing wrong and insist the project met its primary objective, the “reflection” is not going to deliver any value.
There’s another item on the Cabinet meeting agenda, which we think might offer some insight into who the scapegoat is going to be. The paper’s purpose is to recommend to Council that they “should adopt on an interim basis a single CEO model”. In other words, sack one of the CEOs now, before they move to joint CEO arrangements with Rushmoor.
We sat on some of the Thematic Groups for the Project and had significant concerns about the project governance at the time. One of the JCXs was undoubtedly at least partly responsible for this. However, Councillor Cockarill himself rebuffed concerns about this in a letter to Hartley Wintney Parish Council.
We have been calling for a restructuring of the senior management team for some time. However, this call was rebuffed by Councillor Neighbour last November. It seems that now they have a problem with Shapley Heath, they are willing to recommend change because it gives them a scapegoat so they can avoid pinning any responsibility on themselves.