Hydrogen in Hart Gas Pipelines?

Should we allow Hydrogen in Hart Gas Pipelines

Should we allow Hydrogen in Hart Gas Pipelines

As part of their efforts to achieve Net Zero and improve energy security, the Government is pushing ahead with its Hydrogen Strategy. They are splurging £240m on lots of projects to produce, store and use “clean” hydrogen in the hope of creating a new market. Jon Butterworth, chief executive of National Gas has said that plans are being drawn up for hydrogen to be between 2 and 5% of the gas in the transmission network by 2025. Moreover, the National Grid ESO has put considerable emphasis on hydrogen in all of the Future Energy Scenarios to deliver the Net Zero target by 2050.

Hydrogen Safety Concerns

A high pressure gas pipeline passes through Hart and presumably forms part of the plans. However, hydrogen is a highly combustible gas and because its molecules are very small, it can diffuse through many materials. Valves and joints that maybe gas tight for methane (natural gas) may not be gas-tight for hydrogen. To illustrate this, a recent report from Arup for BEIS, as part of the Hy4Heat project recommended that “rooms with gas appliances or substantial pipework installed should have non-closable vents with equivalent area of 10,000 mm2”, or 10cm by 10cm. It seems rather odd to encourage everyone to invest heavily in home insulation and then force them to carve a 4-inch square hole in every room where there’s a hydrogen appliance like a hob, fire or boiler to let lots of heat out.

Hydrogen Embrittlement

Further safety concerns surround a phenomenon known as “hydrogen embrittlement”. This is where tiny hydrogen molecules diffuse between grains of metals such as steel and act as stress concentrators and eventually cause the metal to fracture. This is an issue of significant concern and at least two projects are underway to test the impact of hydrogen being passed through the existing gas transmission network. The Future Grid project being run by National Gas is looking at a number of safety issues surrounding putting hydrogen in the national transmission network including embrittlement and leak testing. SGN is running a similar project called LTS Futures looking at the local transmission system. Future Grid is not due to complete fatigue testing until October 2024 and the LTS project is due to complete in 2025.

The real concern is that John Butterworth, has committed to hydrogen being 2-5% of gas supply by 2025. He has made this commitment before the safety testing projects have completed. In effect, he is putting pressure on those projects to give the answer he wants, rather than an objective assessment of the safety risks.

What’s the Point of Hydrogen Anyway

The Government is pushing the benefits of “clean” hydrogen. However, the supposed benefits are somewhat suspect, as covered in this substack:

  1. Hydrogen is not a primary energy source, so it is always going to be more expensive and inefficient to use hydrogen than the primary energy source it is made from.
  2. The environmental credentials of hydrogen are under question. Studies show “blue hydrogen” emits only 9-12% less greenhouse gases than grey hydrogen produced directly from methane with no carbine capture.
  3. Green hydrogen, from electrolysis may not be all that green either.  An Australian scientist has found that greenhouse gas emissions produced from making hydrogen from solar power are similar to those of grey hydrogen in real world conditions because of intermittency. Similar concerns presumably apply to hydrogen produced from wind power.

Elected Representatives Actions for Hydrogen in Hart Gas Pipelines

We would therefore like to know what steps our elected representatives are taking to satisfy themselves that putting hydrogen in our gas supply is safe and effective. It would be preferable if they commission some sort of independent report. They should not rely on reports that might be tainted by the desires of the CEO of National Gas.




Shapley Heath Whitewash Dream Comes True

The results are in. The report arising from the “facilitated reflection” into the Shapley Heath debacle has been sent to some Councillors. Our prediction of a whitewash has been vindicated.

Back in July last year, Audit Committee demanded that:

Cabinet be asked 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 Cabinet responded by setting up a “facilitated reflection” into the fiasco that was originally due to take place in November 2022. For various reasons, this was postponed to January this year. The CCH and Lib Dem councillors involved held a roundtable workshop that was facilitated by Emanuel “Manny” Gatt of the Local Government Association (LGA). Manny has now produced his report.

Workshop Questions

The scope of the workshop was constrained by the questions it asked. These were:

  1. What lessons emerge on how to balance member/officer accountabilities and responsibilities on future project boards?
  2. How might members use their democratic powers to challenge when governance arrangements don’t appear to be functioning?
  3. How might member oversight be improved to ensure that clear and accurate updated information is provided to Cabinet in future?
  4. What safeguards need to be in place to flag when processes are not being followed?
  5. How might wider scrutiny arrangements be improved to support future projects?

Eagle-eyed readers will note that the five questions above do not really get to the heart of what the Audit Committee asked Cabinet to get to grips with. In particular, there’s no attempt to get to grips with how they managed to squander over £800K and deliver nothing of substance.

Findings from the Shapley Heath Whitewash Workshop

Needless to say, the findings from the report are pretty anodyne. Each question has a short section on things “members noted” and “learning points” they highlighted.

Astonishingly, at one point the Councillors claimed they were reluctant to push the project forward because of public resistance. However, each and every time they were challenged to stop the project, they continued forward like a driverless steamroller. They also inevitably place some blame on Covid. It’s as if the virus ate their homework. If Covid was disrupting the governance of the project, then surely the prudent thing to have done was formally pause it until conditions returned to normal.

One admission they made is that “the project’s oversight was viewed as beyond the remit of the Council’s normal scrutiny orbit”. However, it was Cabinet who took the decision to carry out the project outside of the Local Plan framework.

The closest we can get to a smoking gun is the following passages:

Despite all these [governance] mechanisms being in place, when questions were raised by members throughout the timeline about anticipated financial spend and governance of the Shapley Heath Garden [Village] project, the answers given failed to fundamentally address the concerns raised.

Elected members are both accountable and responsible for decisions made in respect of this and any other project. Notwithstanding the Opportunity Board’s role, the Cabinet remains ultimately accountable for all of the council’s projects and the portfolio holder is responsible for holding officers to account and alerting cabinet about areas of concern.

In other words, the Cabinet members responsible, Councillor Radley for finance, and Councillor Cockarill as chair of the Opportunity Board failed to master their brief and gave inadequate answers to questions. Four members of Cabinet (Radley, Cockarill, Leader Dave Neighbour and Stuart Bailey) were on the Opportunity Board. As members of both bodies, they should be held accountable for this fiasco and resign.

Most of the other learning points fall into the motherhood and apple pie category, for example:

  • All future projects must be monitored by Overview and Scrutiny
  • Cabinet members and portfolio holder must challenge officers’ report constructively
  • Ensure that member/officer roles and responsibilities are clear

Heads should roll, but we won’t hold our breath.




Hart Dreaming of a Shapley Heath Whitewash Christmas

Hart Dreaming of a Shapley Heath Whitewash Christmas

Hart Dreaming of a Shapley Heath Whitewash Christmas

Recently, we have heard of further attempts by Hart Council officers to create a Shapley Heath whitewash.

Apparently the CEO tried to bounce the Conservative members into a “roundtable” meeting to discuss: “What better member scrutiny arrangements could have supported the project and how member oversight could be improved”

The meeting with a representative of the Local Government Association was due to take place in January. The proposal for the roundtable did not include a Terms of Reference (ToR) or even an agenda. As far as we can see, the issues weren’t about the the lack of scrutiny arrangements nor lack of information. The governance arrangements were not followed and the bad information provided was not acted upon. The responsibility for that rests solely with the Chairman, Councillor Cockarill. Heaven knows what the other Cabinet members were thinking or doing.

The roundtable proposal fell somewhat short of the demand by the Audit Committee that Cabinet 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”.

Hart Audit Committee Decision Cabinet to Provide Response on Governance Financial controls and reporting for Shapley Heath

Hart Audit Committee Decision Cabinet to Provide Response on Governance Financial controls and reporting for Shapley Heath

We understand that the Conservative members of the Opportunity Board have refused to attend the meeting. They are unhappy that the proposal does not include a suitable ToR and no agenda has been prepared.

Over £800K has been squandered on the project, with nothing to show for it. They reluctantly agreed to an audit of the project, shirked responsibility and then rejected its findings. It beggars belief that the Cabinet, supported by the CEO, are still trying to wriggle out of responsibility. They don’t seem to be even trying to address the questions asked by Audit Committee.

Statement to Cabinet About Ongoing Shapley Heath Fiasco

Hart Cabinet meets on Thursday this week. Below is our statement about the Shapley Heath fiasco that we intend to deliver on the night:

You have committed to openness and transparency in your follow up of the Shapley Heath Audit Report. Tonight, you might contemplate why none of the deliberations of the Staffing Committee have been published and why there is only a verbal update on the Management Action Plan and no written report.

The verbal update to Audit Committee revealed endemic institutional incompetence. Most pre-November 2021 projects had no PID and no financial documentation; many had no risk register. In other words, the what, why, where, when and who of all these projects wasn’t written down and agreed and there was no effective financial control framework. Many of the post-November 2021 projects are also delinquent with the Capita Review, Traffic Management and Fleet Pond enhancements having no documentation at all.

You might recall that strong criticisms were made in the Shapley Heath Audit Report about the lack of effective project management and inadequate financial controls. From the lack of written documentation accompanying this meeting, it is clear that you have missed your self-imposed deadline to deliver the results of your facilitated reflection today. Answers to FOI requests reveal that you haven’t created a Terms of Reference for this work and have not set a budget, so you haven’t learned even the most basic of lessons. As Einstein said, insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

It is four months since the Audit Report was delivered. There’s been a lot of talk about process and none about content. No effective action has been published and nobody from Cabinet has taken responsibility. You have denied the findings of the Audit Report. You have even censored questions where truthful answers would have caused you embarrassment. It is clear that the Council really has no idea how to run projects. The first part of addressing a problem is to admit it exists. You need urgently to pass through the denial phase, accept these fundamental failings and get on with fixing the deep underlying issues or make way for others who can.

Project Management Weaknesses Revealed to Audit Committee

Hart’s Audit Committee met earlier this month. The meeting covered the work going on to try to fix the project management weaknesses revealed by the Shapley Heath debacle. To recap, the head of Corporate Services had been tasked  to ensure that all projects:

  • have a clear and accountable governance framework of authority that it is accountable to the sponsoring body;
    are always open to wider scrutiny in accordance with the Council’s Constitution;
  • have clear budgetary controls that are regularly monitored and accurately reported to the sponsoring body to include the full identification of financial risks;
  • ensure that all contract procedure rules, and contract management arrangements are followed; and
  • give assurance over the risk management framework including governance and transparency.

The interim S151 Officer only gave a verbal update, but did present some slides. The slides have not been included in the draft minutes, however, we did manage to capture them from the video of the meeting. Hilariously, the S151 officer didn’t even understand one of her own slides because she couldn’t explain what IIA documentation was. We don’t know either, other than guessing it’s something to do with initiating internal audit.

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 2

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 2

The slides were somewhat glossed over in the meeting, but they did show some worrying trends. The projects prior to November 2021 are in a much worse shape than current ones. This shows some improvement, but still performance is weak.

Corporate Services and Joint Waste Projects

None of the Corporate Services projects prior to November 2021 had Project Initiation Documents (PID) and one of them didn’t have appropriate financial documentation. Four of the six recent projects don’t have financial documentation which makes a mockery of the objective of “clear budgetary controls that are regularly monitored”. None of the Joint Waste projects had anything other than a Risk Register. This is odd because if there’s no PID, then the what, why, who and when of the project has not been defined or agreed. The post-November 2021 Capita Review project apparently has no documentation at all. It is clear from this that no lessons have been learned at all.

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 3 Project Management Weaknesses

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 3 Project Management Weaknesses

Place and Infrastructure Projects

None of the pre-November 2021 projects had any financial management documentation or IIA and some didn’t have a risk register. The later projects are in much better shape. However, the recent Traffic Management project has no documentation at all. Interestingly, the brownfield capacity study announced late last year doesn’t even appear on the list.

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 4

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 4

Community, Countryside and Green Grid Project Management Weaknesses

These projects are a complete mess. None of the pre-November 2021 have a PID or financial documentation. The later Fleet Pond enhancement project has no documentation at all. The budget for this year is nearly £500K. So, nearly half a million being spent with no PID, no Risk Register and no financial documentation.

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 5 Project Management Weaknesses

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 5 Project Management Weaknesses

Climate Change Project Management Weaknesses

Another mess; none of the Climate Change projects have any documentation at all.

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 6 Project Management Weaknesses

Shapley Heath Audit Action Plan 6 Project Management Weaknesses

What this tells us is that the Shapley Heath debacle wasn’t some sort of one-off rogue project. It is clear there’s an endemic problem with a lack of basic project management and financial control. Most of the projects prior to November-2021 had major deficiencies in project controls. Many of the post-November 2021 projects also show significant weaknesses. PIDs are fundamental to project management because they describe the what, why, who and when of projects. Omitting the financial controls is simply scandalous. This is especially the case when the Shapley Heath project was heavily criticised for lack of financial controls. Note also that nowhere was there any analysis of the quality of the documents that were produced. It’s all very well ticking the box saying a document has been written, but if it’s of poor quality it is probably worse than useless.

Here is the video of the relevant part of the meeting.


Audit Committee Chairman Tries To Avoid Shapley Heath Follow Up

The recent Audit Committee meeting revealed that the Chairman (Councillor Axam) has his head in the sand as he tried to resist following up on the actions the committee had requested at its previous meeting. Councillor Southern tried for several minutes to insist that the Staffing Committee Chairman and the Leader of the Council be brought back to explain what actions they had taken as a result of the devastating Shapley Heath Audit Report. The chairman attempted to avoid the follow up taking place.

He first said he didn’t know what stage the Cabinet had reached in its investigations. Surely this is even more reason for the Leader to come back and explain. It was pointed out to the Chairman that the first (failed) request for an Internal Audit of Shapley Heath was made in July 2022, it didn’t get commissioned until December 2021 and then the report was made available in early July 2022. Now, nearly 4 months later precious little action has taken place. None of the actions agreed by the Staffing Committee have been published, so nobody knows what’s going on there. The Cabinet is going to miss its own self-imposed deadline of providing a comprehensive report at its November meeting. The internal management action plan has been provided only as a verbal update, with no actual corrective actions identified. Yet, Councillor Axam insisted that there were no “delaying tactics”.

Councillor Axam then agreed with Councillor Smith that the responses from Staffing Committee and Cabinet need not come back to Audit Committee. This is quite astonishing as Dave Neighbour,  Leader of the Council (and Cabinet) has said he doesn’t accept the Audit Report findings.

Shapley Heath Follow Up Must Return to Audit Committee

The Chairman was then somewhat embarrassed by one of the officers. The officer pointed out the minutes agreed as accurate a few minutes earlier had stated that Cabinet and Staffing Committee should provide a response to the Audit Committee.

Audit Committee Meeting Decision About Shapley Heath Follow Up

Audit Committee Meeting Decision About Shapley Heath Follow Up

Now the draft minutes of the meeting show that the Leader will be asked to attend Audit Committee in March 2023 if no adequate response has been provided in the meantime. The exchange is shown in the video below:

Audit Committee Chairman Cannot Do Arithmetic

Earlier in the meeting, there was an hilarious exchange where the Chairman inadvertently revealed that he’s no good at arithmetic. He said the audit fees were rising from £80K to £250K and described it as a 150% increase. In fact an increase from 80 to 250 is a 212.5% increase. Councillor Axam was pulled up on his error by another member of the Committee. It’s reasonable to expect that the Chairman of the Audit Committee be able to do basic arithmetic.

The full exchange on this topic can be found on the video below:

Hart JCX Patricia Hughes to Step Down

Hart JCX Patricia Hughes to Step Down

Hart JCX Patricia Hughes to Step Down

Hart joint-Chief Executive Patricia Hughes is to step down from her role to “pursue a new chapter in her life”. This leaves Daryl Hughes as the sole Chief Executive as the Council considers working more closely with Rushmoor, potentially sharing a Chief Executive. [Update]: Now announced on Hart’s website[/Update]

The news was announced by Council Leader, David Neighbour in an email. The email lists Ms Hughes’ achievements including delivering the £23m Hart Leisure Centre. However, the email is completely silent when it comes to the Shapley Heath project. The project was led by Ms Hughes and was the subject of a now infamous audit.  Following the disastrous findings, Cabinet is conducting a “facilitated reflection” to work out why it all went so wrong. It does look as though that part of Ms Hughes’ career has been swept under the carpet. It is unclear whether her departure is related to the failings of the Shapley Heath project. However, it is certainly possible that she is being made the scapegoat.

What is clear, is that members of the Cabinet still need to face up to their failings on the project. We await the results of the facilitated reflection with interest.

Full Text of the Announcement Email

Joint Chief Executive, Patricia Hughes, will be stepping down from Hart District Council at the end of this week to pursue a new chapter in her life, although she still intends to continue to be involved in local government.

Patricia joined the Council in 2012 initially as a Corporate Director before being appointed as a Joint Chief Executive (Head of Paid Service) in 2014.  As Joint Chief Executive, Patricia has led on many initiatives including the delivery of the new £23m Hart Leisure Centre, the development of the Council’s 2040 vision and more recently she has been pivotal in the Council meeting the immense challenges presented by COVID-19 global pandemic.

She has also steered the Council’s support to our community and delivered plans that have been of great benefit to our residents and local businesses. She has risen to meet many challenges and leaves the organisation in a strong position for the future.

Patricia Hughes says “It has been an honour and a privilege to work for Hart District Council. The last few years have been a period of exceptional challenge and I am deeply grateful for the incredible commitment and dedication of colleagues who have worked so hard to support our residents and businesses during these unprecedented times. With a clear vision and plan for the future, I wish members and officers well as I move on to the next stage of my career.”

Patricia’s departure will leave Daryl Phillips in the role of Chief Executive, providing continuity and stability for the Council, whilst the Council considers the future.

Hart Council Fails to Set Objectives and Budget for Facilitated Reflection

Hart Council Fails to Set Objectives and Budget for Facilitated Reflection. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results

Hart Council Fails to Set Objectives and Budget for Facilitated Reflection.

Regular readers will know that Hart Council has recently been criticised about the way it ran the Shapley Heath project in the independent Audit Report. In response to the report, they are to hold a “Facilitated Reflection” (aka Investigation, aka Independent Review).

No details of the review have been released, so we put in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to ask for the following to be released:

1. The Terms Of Reference provided to the various bodies approached to conduct the activity.

2. The budget set by the Council to carry out this piece of work.

3. The actual costs incurred carrying out the work.

We have received a response to the FOI saying the Council does not hold the information requested. Typically Terms of Reference (ToR) would set the scope and objectives and lay out the organisation and governance arrangements for the piece of work. If they have no ToR and no budget, they aren’t following the basics of prudent management and financial control.

The criticisms laid at them by TIAA included the following:

  • No evidence to suggest that the project was financially managed appropriately.
  • Little financial monitoring information presented to members and some of that was inaccurate.
  • The Project Management did not meet the required standards.
  • No formal records of meetings and emails subsequently deleted.
  • Project reporting in terms of frequency and content did not meet expectations.
  • Little oversight by the Oversight Board and none by the Cabinet.
  • Virtually non-existent risk management.

In essence, they are carrying out this “reflection” in the same lackadaisical way they did the original project. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Sadly, they are demonstrating over and over that they are living in a clown world.


Hart Politburo Forced to Publish Shapley Heath Questions

Regular readers will recall that we submitted questions about the Shapley Heath debacle to last week’s Council meeting. The Council decided to censor the questions saying that they “appear to rehearse matters that have already been put to the council within the last 6 months”. That excuse was of course complete nonsense because last week was the first time questions could have been asked about the Shapley Heath Audit Report. When the agenda item came up, they denied that any questions had been asked. This is clearly a lie. Whoever forced the Committee Services official to lie should hang their head in shame.

Points of Order Raised

Councillor Spencer Farmer immediately raised two Points of Order. The first pointed out that the questions asked did not fall foul of the rules and should therefore have been allowed. The second pointed out that according to the Constitution, all questions should be published regardless of whether they were disallowed. The JCX gave a weak defence of the Council’s position. Under pressure, he had to concede that the questions did in fact exist and would be published with the minutes of the meeting.

That’s quite a transition. Within a few minutes they went from claiming no questions had been asked to agreeing the non-existent questions would be published with the minutes. They could even be asked again at the November meeting. It is now over a week since the meeting and the minutes have still not been published.

[Update:] The draft minutes have now been released. They wrongly attribute the Points of Order raised to Councillor Dr Crampton not to Councillor Farmer. They can’t get the minutes right even when they have a video of the whole meeting.[/Update]

Of course, they haven’t actually answered the Shapley Heath questions.

It is obvious the Council is running scared. They are too frightened to even acknowledge the existence of questions that highlighted the lies told misleading statements given at July Council and September Cabinet. For a Cabinet anxious to be seen to be not marking its own homework, this is terrible optics. Joseph Stalin would be proud.

In lieu of the minutes, here is a video of the relevant exchange.

Letter Highlighting Censorship of Shapley Heath Questions

What’s even stranger is that all Councillors and both JCXs knew of the existence of the questions. We sent an email to all Councillors informing them of the censorship of the questions and added an attachment containing the questions. So, this wasn’t some rogue officer making a mistake. It was a deliberate cover-up by senior officers and the Cabinet.

Here is the letter:

I attach the questions I submitted for this week’s Council meeting. They have been rejected because they “appear to rehearse matters that have already been put to the council within the last 6 months”. However, the Shapley Heath Audit Report was only released to the public in July, after the deadline for public questions to the July Council meeting.  Accordingly, this is the first time members of the public have been able to ask questions about the report and the statements made about it by Cabinet members. So, either the Officers have been “got at” or they have an even weaker grasp on reality than previously thought.

It is clear Cabinet members have been trying to denigrate, minimise and cover up the devastating findings of TIAA’s Audit Report. The Council Leader has falsely claimed that the Audit Work took place before it was even commissioned. From his statements, the Leader has no particular expertise in Project Management, yet this did not stop him from declaring arrogantly that he did not accept the findings of TIAA’s comprehensive, fact-checked report.

The Portfolio Holder for Place falsely claimed that the project had met its primary objective even though it had not achieved a single milestone and had certainly not achieved the objectives of establishing “a vision for a Garden Community and evidence whether such a vision is both viable and deliverable”. Moreover, we are no further towards understanding when they found out that the Government had stopped funding the project and how much more public money they squandered after being told. Nor do we know who took the decision to continue spending without recourse to the Opportunity Board.

The portfolio holder for Finance brushed off questions about obvious budgeting and reporting irregularities surrounding the project. At least one of his answers was obviously false at the time. Apparently he took no steps to investigate, despite having prima facie evidence handed to him on a plate.

What we have here is an absolute catastrophe of Project Management, Governance, Risk Management, Financial Control and above all, Leadership. The TIAA report makes that clear. Now the Cabinet are too cowardly to answer questions about it.  If the public are not allowed to hold them to account, you must step up to the plate. We cannot have a situation where over £800K of public money is poured down the drain, nothing of substance is delivered, questions cannot be asked and nobody is accountable.


Questions to Expose Shapley Heath “Operation Cover Up”

Hart Council meets again next week on Thursday 29th September. We have tabled a series of questions to expose the Cabinet’s apparent Shapley Heath “Operation Cover Up”. Together they have made a number of false statements to July Council and to September’s Cabinet that seek to minimise the colossal failure of the project. In summary, they have frittered away over £800K of public money and delivered nothing of substance. Instead of spending even more money on a “Facilitated Reflection” they should be accepting responsibility and resigning.

Here are the questions we have tabled to Council Leader, David Neighbour; Chair of the Shapley Heath Opportunity Board, Graham Cockarill and Deputy Leader, James Radley. We will report on their answers to these and the inevitable supplementary questions after the meeting next week.

Questions on Shapley Heath Operation Cover Up to David Neighbour

  • At September Cabinet you insisted the Shapley Heath Audit took place “at a point in time” in November 2021 which is before it was even commissioned. Do you now agree that the Shapley Heath Audit was only agreed by Audit Committee at their meeting in December 2021, the developer studies were published in January 2021, the audit work was carried out afterwards by TIAA in March and April 2022 and the first draft report was delivered in late June 2022 with the final report circulated in early July 2022?


  • The deliverables that had to be completed to achieve the first milestone of the Shapley Heath project were: the Communities Survey, Vision and Objectives, Communication and Engagement Strategy, Technical Studies, Strategic Viability Appraisal and Phase One Masterplan (Concept). The Technical Studies comprised 13 Baseline Studies and 14 Strategy Reports. At the September Cabinet meeting you said you disagreed with TIAA’s assessment that no milestones had been achieved. Can you set out which of the planned deliverables were published and how on earth they constitute the achievement of the first milestone?


Shapley Heath Deliverables Required for first Milestone

Shapley Heath Deliverables Required for first Milestone

Shapley Heath Baseline Studies and Strategy Reports Planned

Shapley Heath Baseline Studies and Strategy Reports Planned

Questions on Shapley Heath Operation Cover Up to Graham Cockarill

  • At the July Council meeting you stated the Shapley Heath project was stopped because the Government had ceased providing financial support. When was the Council informed that it would not receive any further Government funding, what reason was given for that decision and will you publish that letter as it is a matter of public record?


  • You also said that nobody from the Opportunity Board raised any issues with you about the Shapley Heath project as if that somehow absolved you as Chair of any responsibility. Three of your Cabinet colleagues, David Neighbour, James Radley and Stuart Bailey sat on the Opportunity Board with you, does this mean that they are more, or less, responsible than you for the failures of the project?


  • At the same meeting, you claimed that the project has “met its primary objective” despite the fact that no milestones have been achieved. The stated objectives were to “establish a vision for a Garden Community and evidence whether such a vision is both viable and deliverable”. Where is the published Vision that has been established and where is the evidence that the vision is both viable and deliverable?
Objective of Shapley Heath Project

Objectives of the Shapley Heath Project

  • On 25th February 2021, along with the rest of the Council, you approved the overall budget including funding for the New Settlement. The New Settlement budget covered staffing for only 2-3 people and £25K for consultants. Did any budgetary alarm bells start to ring when the Thematic Groups were stuffed with unbudgeted Council Officers, advertisements were placed for contracts worth up to £56K, a new website appeared along with an extensive survey and you appeared in professionally produced videos to promote the survey; wasn’t it clear then that the spending was going to massively exceed the budget?

Question to James Radley

  • Back in July 2021, I asked you a number of questions about obvious budgeting and financial reporting irregularities in the Shapley Heath project. The Shapley Heath Audit Report confirmed these concerns, saying there was no evidence that “the project had been accurately and appropriately financially managed”. At the time you brushed off these concerns and actually defended the Council’s financial controls. As Cabinet member for Finance, what steps did you take to investigate the obvious weaknesses that were quite correctly highlighted by my questions?
No evidence the project was financially managed appropriately

No evidence the project was financially managed appropriately