Fringe Box



Letter: If The Council Needs Cuts They Should Review Their Local Plan Expenditure

Published on: 16 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 15 Nov, 2015

From Ben PatonBudget 2013

Isn’t it marvellous how this Conservative administration seeks to claim the mantle of good husbandry and careful spending, most recently over the Electric Theatre? This after having wasted literally years and spent millions on a Local Plan which has been a fiasco.

Here are a few facts supplied by GBC:

  1. The total cost of the latest Guildford Local Plan to 31 December, 2014 was £3.1m.
  2. GBC claims not to have a record of the equivalent cost of the 2003 Local Plan, saying, “We are only obliged to keep detailed financial records for a period of six years, therefore the information is no longer available.” That’s convenient. It seems a safe to assume that it cost a good deal less.
  3. The estimated costs to complete the draft Local Plan (as at April, 2015) were given as: “Projected expenditure for the remainder of the financial year 2014/15 between 31st December 2014 and 31st March 2015 is a further £110,000.” Some £0.9m of the sum to 31 December, 2014 went to external consultants.
  4. A further £960,000 is budgeted for, so in total the Local Plan is expected cost £3.1m plus another £0.96m, or a little over £4m.

The draft Local Plan was sent out to consultation – itself an expensive exercise – against the advice of the scrutiny committee without even so much as having established a figure for housing need, let alone having completed a transport plan. Was that competent?

If only 10 per cent of the £4m spent and proposed to be spent on the new local plan had been saved by a little judicious planning then, all else being equal, it would not have been necessary to seek to save money in other areas.

Other projects are known to have been overspent such as the Armed Forces Day celebrations. But full details have not been disclosed.

Can it really be argued that the taxpayer has received value for money?

The costs of not disclosing the facts, such as the Justin Gardner Consulting housing projections model, are greater than acting transparently in the first place.

GBC under this administration seeks to argue that the council’s finance are sound. The credit for that belongs to the prudence exercised by prior generations rather that to the present incumbents.

If GBC were genuinely interested in minimising costs for the people who live here it would, for example, be open about the real constraints on new housing in the borough rather than ignoring such constraints completely.

Inflating the housing need just imposes greater costs on residents by requiring greater investment in new infrastructure such as roads and schools – for people who do not live here.

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Responses to Letter: If The Council Needs Cuts They Should Review Their Local Plan Expenditure

  1. George Dokimakis Reply

    November 16, 2015 at 10:16 am

    The examples provided by Mr Paton, are but a start of the financial mismanagement by the council. The money casually spent on outside consultancies is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Looking at items such as the Electric Theatre in isolation provides a skewed picture that the committees should be wise to.

    I guess it will come down to the priorities of the new Executive to determine what the GBC should be spending money on and whether it fits their Corporate Plan for Guildford.

  2. Neville Bryan Reply

    November 16, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Approval earlier this year was given to a £3.5m internal spend on the council buildings at Millmead, which GBC want to knock down for housing in a few years (according to the last draft Local Plan). That’s a lot of Electric Theatres.

    GBC seem to have their financial planning quotes rolling out only when convenient. What else is going on here?

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