Fringe Box



Letter: Accountability for GBC’s Budget Problems Must Wait

Published on: 27 Jul, 2023
Updated on: 27 Jul, 2023

From: Bob Hughes

Conservative borough councillor for Tillingbourne

In response to a comment from Ben Paton on: GBC ‘Will No Longer Be Able to Afford the Current Range of Services’ Provided

Ben Paton is right to question, in his comment, how the debts arose, although the most important job for all councillors of all parties is to work together to minimise the impact of the mistakes and judgements over the last few years and rebuild the council finances. Sadly, there will be cuts that will hurt services.

What is now needed is complete transparency from the administration and it is plain that we haven’t got that yet. Working together depends on open discussion with councillors and the people of Guildford.

In relation to how the debts arose, the senior officer [Peter Vickers] with current oversight of this, has been very clear: it was acquisitions over the last two years. Reserves were reduced to a level that is unsafe which makes the debts built up unmanageable without emergency action.

Conservatives are not playing the blame game but the facts are the facts and at some point, those responsible for this mess will have to be held to account. However, that must wait until the finances are rebuilt.

Editor’s comment: GBC has been invited to respond to the claim that “it was acquisitions over the last two years” the chief finance officer specified caused the council’s debt.

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Responses to Letter: Accountability for GBC’s Budget Problems Must Wait

  1. Julian Cranwell Reply

    July 27, 2023 at 7:49 pm

    Mr Hughes fails to recognise the huge debts incurred by the failed vanity project, The Village, by the Tories. (see: Pop Up Village – The Council Should Not Attempt Entrepreneurial Activity)

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    July 27, 2023 at 9:05 pm

    Part of that overspend is Wayside village and moving the sewage treatment plant. But because the head in the sand since 2004 5 for it never was financially viable and it is still not financially viable. Because its the prime GBC vision set in a granite tunnel of obstinancy and support by public loans

    No one has the mental strength to say stop this is foolish!

    Well the STW Work starts in August and the boast it will be completed new years day 2027.

    As for the expense of clearing the site and building the village currently £60 million over budget.. and nares a sod turned!

    Only history will record fruitful or folly!

  3. Joss Bigmore Reply

    July 27, 2023 at 11:55 pm

    Can Cllr Hughes please identify the acquisitions over the last two years to which he is referring, or apologise for his ignorance?

    Joss Bigmore is the R4GV borough councillor for Merrow.

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    July 28, 2023 at 9:00 pm

    Cllr Bob Hughes [Con, Tillingbourne] wrote: “In relation to how the debts arose, the senior officer [Peter Vickers] with current oversight of this, has been very clear: it was acquisitions over the last two years.”

    The Senior Officer provided a table at para 7.12 of his report. It is available on the link in the original Dragon article.

    It shows that £121.4m of debt (about half) was accumulated pre-2020 and categorises that sum as:
    ‘Property’ £96m
    North Downs Housing Ltd £13.6m
    Walnut Bridge £0.2
    Weyside Urban Village £11.5m

    The main items of expenditure post-2020 are the Ash Road Bridge (£30m), the Weyside Urban Village (£80m) and North Downs Housing (£10m).

    All these projects began under the Conservatives. And all the expenditure followed the ‘trajectory’ that they set.

    The Weyside Urban Village is not an economic project. Apart from anything else it is in a flood plain.

  5. RWL Davies Reply

    July 29, 2023 at 8:20 am

    Will the lesson ever be learned that whenever local authorities engage in entrepreneurial activities the outcome is failure and the writing off of shedloads of money?

    Local authorities need to stick to what they’re for which is delivering local services and infrastructure to local people.

  6. Bob Hughes Reply

    July 29, 2023 at 2:40 pm

    Former council leader Joss Bigmore wants to know where I get the idea that a substantial part of the debt was incurred over the last two years. As he was Leader or Deputy Leader over that time it’s worrying he doesn’t know. My source was the relevant senior council officer who said so in an open briefing.

    Running down the reserves irresponsibility, combined with so many errors, now admitted, has driven us to this position. We now need to work together to protect the people from the consequences as far as we can.

    Bob Hughes is the Conservative borough councillor for Tillingbourne

  7. Joss Bigmore Reply

    July 29, 2023 at 7:40 pm

    Again, I ask, what specific acquisitions is Cllr Hughes referring to? I am confident in my reallocation of fact, I have less confidence in Conservatives and their definition of truth and fact.

  8. Richard Andrews Reply

    July 31, 2023 at 2:21 pm

    Thank you to Cllr Bob Hughes for his reply.

    Unfortunately, he appears to have forgotten to include the details of what these acquisitions are.

    According to him, both he and Cllr Bigmore know what they are but it would be helpful if the electorate knew too.

    The Dragon NEWS has asked GBC to confirm the accuracy of Cllr Hughes’ claim.

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