Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Exclusive - Barnet Council - Incompetence and mismanaging resources in the face of a crisis

I was quite alarmed to see just how badly Barnet Council are managing their finances at  present, as detailed by a recent report on the Council website. The local administration would have you believe that they run a tight ship, but in fact they are proving themselves unable to manage the borough, causing all manner of problems for residents. A report on the Capital resource allocations on the council website demonstrates just how bad the council are at implementing their own policy decisions.

Section 9.14 of this report details how many projects, which have capital allocations, are in trouble. Here are the main highlights

There has been a 13% reduction in the capital programme this quarter. The main projects
affected are as follows:
• Deletions in Children’s Education for Schools Modernisation & Access Improvement Programmes (£1.523m).
• Deletions in DRS for Highways non TFL (£0.146m).
• Slippage in the Commissioning Group for depot relocation (£10.140m).
• Slippage in Children’s Education for:
Schools Modernisation & Access Improvement Programmes (£1.992m).
Urgent Primary Places (£2.000m).
General Schools Organisations (£0.559m).
Other Schemes (£0.253m).

• Slippage in Children’s Family Services for the implementation of libraries Strategy
• Slippage in the DRS Delivery Unit for:
General Fund regeneration (£1.050m).
Highways TFL (£0.678m).
Highways non-TFL (£0.621m).
Disabled Facilities Projects (£0.400m).
Other EPR projects (£0.300m).

All of this is money which as been allocated to important projects, which have not been delivered. If you are the parent of a child who cannot get a school place, the slippage in the Urgent Primary Places scheme, where £2m has not been spent shows just how badly the council is doing. The £1.3 million not spent on Highways goes a long way to explain the atrocious state of many of our roads. The £.4 million not spent on facilities for disabled people explains why so many vulnerable people are suffering. You can also see that the council has slashed its budget for modernising and improving access to local schools. They have mismanaged the relocation of a depot.
In total the report highlights nearly £211 million pounds worth of important capital investment that is being mismanaged (ie listed as "slippage"). The report states
Analysis of the capital programme over the period 2010/11 – 2012/13 has identified the total amount of slippage over the time period is £211.3m. £99.9m of this slippage relates to Children’s Service which equates to 47.3% of total slippage. Of this 47.3%, £86m relates to school builds, further investigation has indicated this is probably a profiling issue within the programme that needs to be addressed in the future. 

It appears to me that the Council havebeen failing in their statuatory legal duty to manage their finances. This is highlighted in section 7.2:-
7.2 Section 28 of the Local Government Act 2003 (the Act) imposes a statutory duty on a billing or major precepting authority to monitor, during the financial year, its income and expenditure against the budget calculations. If the monitoring establishes that the budgetary situation has deteriorated, the authority must take such action as it considers necessary to deal with the situation. Definition as to whether there is a deterioration in an authority’s financial position is set out in sub-section 28(4) of the Act. 
There is no way that a "slippage" of £211 million in project spend can be designated as anything other than mismanagement on a huge scale. You may ask what the Council proposes to do to fix this problem? Here is what their remedy is
Assessment process to consider deliverability and planning to ensure robust plans are in place before inclusion into the capital programme 
So there you have it. Up until now, the council have not had an assessment process to consider whether they could actually deliver projects or ensure robust plans are in place, before deciding to spend you hard earned cash. The incompetence of this Council is truly staggering. These are not trivial sums and their are clearly no proper controls in place on how money is spent. Does this sound as if they have fulfilled their legal requirement set out in section 7.2? The Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius should resign. It is clear that his regime has completely lost control of the management of the council and officers need proper management and direction. The Tories have run the Council since 2002. There can be no excuse for such failure. I am shocked that no one has picked up on this incredible failure. You would think that it would be on the front page of the local papers. 

You can read the full report here on the Council website. It is truly shocking

1 comment:

baarnett said...

"Slippage in the Commissioning Group for depot relocation (£10.140m)"

Is that the attempt to move most of the dustcart depot from Mill Hill East into Haringey, at Pinkham Way?