Saturday, September 23, 2006

Another lost £1million at Southampton City Council

View of the Bargate pedestrian scheme where costs rose from £345,000 to £596,000, an increase of £251k.
When I read Thursday’s Daily Echo, a feeling of déjà vu swept over me. Over recent years, there have been a few overspends (mainly in the social services area) of Southampton City Council. Perhaps more damningly, about ten months ago, the paper ran a lengthy report on how finance bosses needed to find an extra £1million to plug a hole in the city coffers caused by under-estimating the amount of homes in the city that should be paying council tax.
Now it has been revealed that they have overspent another £1million due to the costs of pedestrianising, road repairs and rebuilding projects running over budget.
An internal investigation carried out by the Chief Exec of the Council, Brad Roynon and finance chief Carolyn Williamson apparently makes what the paper describes as 'damning reading'. To quote, “The city council suffered from a ‘culture of manipulation’ of some of the finances which led to some breeches of financial regulations. In one instance, £25,000 was moved from one account to another and there was no record of it.
The leader of the Council Adrian Vinson said, “Councillors did not have correct information. In future we will have the correct information”. I am not sure that Residents will share his confidence.
The Conservatives have got this right when they are calling for disciplinary action to be taken against the Officers concerned and for the lessons to be learned to prevent the misuse of public money. Labour to their credit is broadly supportive of this approach.
I am planning to ask for a copy of the report as a member of the public and will publish my correspondence with the Council. It will be interesting if they support ‘open government’ over matters such as this.


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