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Skullduggery,Ineptitude and Monumental Waste of Taxpayer's Money! Hertsad -pg11-5th November 2010.

posted 5 Nov 2010, 06:03 by David Gilroy   [ updated 9 Nov 2010, 12:10 ]
Our own Vanessa Gregory weighs in about the New Lodge finances and more ! I reproduce it below in full.

SIR-I refer to your recent front page article (St.Albans edition, October 21- Harpenden residents can read the e-edition at ) on the debacle over the 19-month negotiations to end the lease of Bricket Wood sports complex. When will the skulduggery, ineptitude and monumental waste of taxpayer’s money surrounding the cabinet’s plans for new leisure facilities ever cease? 


Prior to making the decision to close the Bricket Wood centre to residents, didn’t portfolio holders, leisure, legal and estates officers check the terms of the lease before blundering on, seemingly failing to understand the basic rudiments of property management; most leases have a full repairing element to them.  The estimated cost back in 2004 to maintain Bricket Wood Sports Centre in its then condition was over £1m, so goodness knows how much that has risen in the interim. Who therefore can really blame HSBC if they chose to hold the council to the terms?  Especially as the council quite blatantly proclaimed that one of the reasons for surrendering the lease would be the significant capital investment required over the next 5 years to the natural end of the lease.  

Last week, at the council’s overview and scrutiny meeting, it was disclosed that only 22.2% of those displaced from Bricket Wood had moved to Watford’s Woodside facilities.  Where the rest had gone unsurprisingly the head of leisure did not know.

 Neither could he shed any light on how residents will benefit from the proposed Cotlandswick leisure facility, which will be built and run privately on our land generously donated by the cabinet.  They will appoint a preferred developer for that vague scheme in December. 


The ramifications of the coalition government’s spending review are now becoming clearer.  Councils will have a reduction of income from central government of about 28% over the next four years.  As reported in The Herts Advertiser the district council will have to make deep cuts.


It was also announced in the government’s spending review, that to “better reflect the availability of capital funding” the Public Works Loan Board, where the council will have to borrow substantially to pay for their fatally flawed scheme for Westminster Lodge, will raise their interest rates by 1%.  This, according to the Local Government Association finance director Stephen Jones, will raise local councils borrowing costs by 25%.  Therefore for every £10m borrowed, this equals an extra £100,000 in interest per annum, which equates to a 1% increase on our council tax.  However as they cannot raise council tax for at least another year, I would suggest this will mean further large increases in the future.


Yet on the 2nd November this grotesquely out-of- touch cabinet will award the construction contract to build the new Westminster Lodge, without knowing how much extra this and the Bricket Wood early contract exit will actually cost.  

This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue, the situation is now grave.  The cabinet and some officers, many senior, must be called to account, now, before any more of our money is wasted and before essential services are cut more deeply to pay for this growing obscene leisure fiasco.   We should not be made to pay for cabinet loss of face.  


I call upon the chairman of the district council audit committee to call an emergency meeting immediately, to investigate what appear to be projects and business plans dreamt up, with negligible consultation and understanding of existing contracts, when the financial climate was more benign, which now have huge potential for runaway unaffordable costs.  


After this hopefully cathartic process, we then might start to build cohesive affordable leisure facility projects, listening to what residents need and working with project facility neighbours such as The Abbey Theatre and not against them.


VANESSA  GREGORY Tennyson Road  St.Albans .