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Updated: KPMG to Probe Scandal of Hidden £2.7m Right-to-buy Payments to Whitehall

Published on: 23 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 24 Feb, 2021

By Martin Giles

UPDATED February 24. Both main parties in Guildford council agree an independent review is urgently needed of the reporting system that allowed actually £2.7 million, not £2.3 million, from council house sales in the right-to-buy (RTB) scheme, to remain hidden from councillors.

Cllr Deborah Seabrook

Cllr Tim Anderson, lead for Resources, told The Dragon yesterday (February 23) of the updated total. He said the payments were first questioned by Cllr Deborah Seabrook (R4GV, Merrow) while she was reviewing documents in the Corporate Governance and Scrutiny Committee. Her tentative findings were reported to the council leadership.

That meeting was also attended by Cllr Nigel Manning (Con, Ash Vale), who had been lead for Finance in the former Conservative council,

Cllrs Joss Bigmore and Caroline Reeves

The scandal hit the headlines at GBC’s budget meeting on February 10 when Cllr Manning suddenly announced that an initial payment of the RTB money, not disclosed to councillors then, had been made to the government during the pre-election months of 2019.

A resulting joint statement and apology by R4GV council leader Joss Bigmore and Lib Dem deputy Caroline Reeves said: “There are clearly fundamental and longstanding problems with the council’s reporting about this issue and, as a consequence, funds that could have been spent on housing were not …”

Cllr Nigel Manning

Cllr Manning later said: “The Guildford Conservative councillor group calls for an independent investigation. It should not only concentrate on what happened, but by whom and how this occurred.

“Just as importantly, there need to be clear recommendations for change to ensure these fundamental and longstanding problems in reporting do not occur in the future.

“With so many residents on the council house waiting-list, GBC cannot afford to waste this amount of money, which should have been used to provide additional, much-needed council housing.

“We urge the R4GV and Lib Dem administration to agree to this request without delay.”

Cllr Tim Anderson

Cllr Anderson (R4GV, Horsley & Clandon), said: “I have spent the weekend and the past 24 hours establishing the ‘Right to Buy Reporting Review Executive Working Group’ which will examine all documents and circumstances connected to the payment to the government of right-to-buy receipts over a three-year period.

“Substantial progress has already been achieved and I am now much better informed. I will be contacting councillors today to invite them to join the working group.

“I will also make public the brief [expected today, February 24] for the working group which I have drafted with the assistance of officers since the extent of this issue became apparent last week.

“The analysis of the working group and documentation will be reviewed by KPMG to guarantee independent rigour. The working group will report to the Executive on March 23 and the council on April 13.

“KPMG will report to the council at the first possible date. [£250,000 of] these payments were made under the last Conservative administration, the remainder under the Liberal-Democrat and now the R4GV/Liberal Democrat coalition.”

Cllr Reeves (Friary & St Nicolas) backed Cllr Anderson, saying: “I fully support an investigation and a clear independent review of the issues in the reporting system that have been highlighted.

“In the statement last week, Cllr Bigmore and I apologised unreservedly. It is our intention to investigate back to at least the start of 2019 to ensure the situation is thoroughly reviewed and new processes will be implemented.”

Whether the KPMG review will satisfy other parties may be doubtful.

A spokesperson for Guildford Labour Party said: “We fully support Cllr Manning’s request for an inquiry into how this £2.3 million [now known to be £2.7 million] from the sale of council properties was effectively lost to the government.

Brian Creese

“The R4GV/Lib Dem council has itself admitted there are problems and it’s essential we hear in detail from them how this happened. It must include a full breakdown of what receipts the council has had over the past five years, what has been invested and what has been lost.”

Party chair Brian Creese added: “This is a vast sum of money and a scandal we must be assured will never happen again. To be clear, Guildford Labour is not calling for resignations at this time, but the R4GV/Lib Dem council needs to come up with the answers.”


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Responses to Updated: KPMG to Probe Scandal of Hidden £2.7m Right-to-buy Payments to Whitehall

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    February 23, 2021 at 10:15 pm

    Please would GBC publish the statistics for the number of council houses sold under right to buy, the net proceeds from the houses sold, the sums reinvested in new council housing and the number of council houses built for each of the last ten years?

    Please could they also state the borough councillor and the senior council officer responsible for this activity in each year for the past ten years?

    Please also state the total quantum of subsidies that the Slyfield Area Redevelopment, aka Weyside, that have been spent to date and that are estimated over the life of the building project.

    Here are the figures up to 2013/14.

    Let’s see the update, please.

    • Keith Reeves Reply

      February 24, 2021 at 4:06 pm

      Surely Freedom of Information requests are best sent to the council?

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