Sunday, 31 July 2011

Cabinet Papers Reveal

August is always the time that Medway Conservatives use the Council to bury bad news. They think because everyone is having a holiday, that the next full Council meeting is in October and its the silly season in the press that this can be an excuse to treat the public with absolute contempt.

The cabinet papers to be discussed this week provide some damning insights into financial mismanagement by Councillor Jarrett on regeneration schemes in Chatham and specifically the bus station and road improvement works. They also provide chilling evidence that the four year Free Swimming and Freedom Pass could actually be a 'one-off'. A direct contradiction to Conservative manifesto pledges in May 2011.

No one denies that regeneration is necessary in Chatham, but just like with the Woodland's fiasco and the second submission for the Primary School change programme, we see continued waste of hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers money.

Below is the full cost of the 'dynamic' bus facility in Chatham. Cllr Vince Maple (Labour) has requested this cost breakdown at the last four Council meetings with no response.

Interesting to note the second time in as many weeks that we read that the Tory administration had to submit another design (costing almost £1m) because of a failure to get it right the first time. Remember, the first Cllr Wicks Primary School change proposal also had to be submitted again because it was poorly written.

The overrun on the bus station is predicted to be £435,000.

That is the equivalent sum to saving dozens of Teaching Assistants in our Primary schools.

The above however baffles. This bus station is now four/five months late, and the design of which had to be submitted twice at a cost of almost £1m. However take away the design cost and you end up below budget; despite it being late. It is almost as if the budget outturn had been over-exaggerated so that taking away secondary submission costs it would come out below budget?

These are not small sums of money and it is espcially galling when backbench Councillors [of all partisan colours] are given the same 'we have no funding' on ward-based schemes when such vast sums are clearly not being spent as well as they could be. The public need to get a lot more honesty and transparency from the Tories. We can all go back and look at prior press statements and budgets.

Below is the full cost of the road regeneration to the Union Street and Brook. These schemes were bitterly opposed by local residents (and indeed saw the fib over the demolition of the Hawkins Flyover in 2007, where the Tories changed their minds just before and after the local elections).

The scheme has led to a decline in local footfall for traders and is itself almost £800,000 overbudget. Despite being almost 9.5% over-budget the Conservatives even have the gall to suffest that it was 'not an unexpected occurance' though HCA rules are strict, this just seems a very high figure given an area where surely we know what is burried beneath the streets; the road was only build thirty years ago during the previous regeneration exercise.

What these two key projects highlight is not that regeneration is not necessary. I passionately believe we do need to see improvements in Medway; it is that the Medway Conservatives have mismanaged them time and time again. They are simply rubbish at managing our money; what with schools and now regeneration schemes overbudget - it raises serious questions about how much fiscal control Cllr Jarrett actually has. By these figures very little indeed.

Lastly, and this is a key point, for all those who believe local election pledges should be followed.

The Medway Conservatives promised four years funding for the Medway Freedom Pass and the Free Swimming initiative

Note the reference to 'fund one-off' initiatives (is that even a term?) from the Reserves. No mention of longer-term funding at all.
  • Have the Tories lied to the public by promising free swimming for four years?
  • Where is the additional budgeted sum for the extension of the Freedom Pass scheme?

Not only are the Tories mismanaging multi-million pounds projects but are their pledges going the same way as their dodgy figures?


  1. Fascinating information about the bus station. And we haven't even seen the high quality new public toilets yet or the vending machines! It appears the £923K overspend was due to the decision not to totally destroy the Paddock and a new plan having to be rushed through Planning Committee in 7 weeks (by the end of Janury 2010). I note your point about there not being a Full Council until October but can't Overview and Scrutiny be reviewing this in the 2nd week of August. You can then ask the Chairman if his agreement was justified about not calling in Cabinet Decisions due to funding considerations being urgent..............

  2. Anon - what a fantastic suggestion... of course we all know why the funding considerations were urgent - they left it all until the last minute and they all had the sword of damacles above their heads on a future bus station.

    So when you looking for your road to be resurfaced, parks to be cleaned or indeed an alleyway cleared. You may get the trite 'we have no money because it was Labour' just remember that actually; its local mismanagement of millions.

    There is efficiency in local government but this lot are unable or incapable.