Wednesday, 6 July 2011

where did the money go?

this has been in His Master's Voice (so it must be true)

Members of the public will be able to scrutinise what happens to the millions of pounds paid by developers to Reading Borough Council.

The authority has been forced to open up its books after an external investigation found hundreds of thousands of pounds had been misallocated.
Chief executive Michael Coughlin has vowed to make the process more transparent and publish a record of the cash received from each developer and where it is spent.

Congratulations to those, especially Cllrs Ballsdon and Swaine, but not only them, who have worked to expose this.  Of course, the "hundreds of thousands of pounds" identified by the external investigation must be a tiny fraction of the whole, because if it is true that systems were not in place to identify where the money is spent then that must apply to all S106 receipts, not just what has been found.  At least it is clear and in the open that it took the Labour administration to be ousted before any of this was even looked at, and that now they are back in "control" they are toning down the report and minimising what gets into the public domain - it can be seen from His Master's Voice that that noted local organ is complying fully with this.  No shock banner headlines for them.  The Prospect Park games area is a good place to look at, as developer money was found for that basically to provide Mr Salter with photo opportunities and vote-gathering.  Be careful though.  I never tried to expose this kind of thing publicly, only to have private words and ask questions from time to time, both when I was a councillor and later as an MP, and they went for me pretty savagely.  I note too that Zim One Lovelock says that Cllr Ballsdon has a "bee in her bonnet" about the correct allocation and monitoring of developer contributions.  Er, yes.  Shouldn't every councillor?  Despite the trivialising turn of phrase?

I am not suggesting that there has been personal corruption, other than a few councillors getting their roofs replaced by council workers at no or minimal cost some years ago, and Mr Salter getting free parking at the Civic Offices throughout the time he was an MP and never declaring it, as well as having a coned space with a council sign on it so he could always park outside his house when he lived in Clifton Street, in a house he still part owns and did not declare as an interest.  Chicken feed. No, it is more to do with siphoning off of developer money for vanity projects and using it to plug budget gaps created by vote-buying spending schemes..

At the very least, this is a PR disaster for the Labour administration on a Howarthian scale.  At most there could be prison sentences for more than one.  *rubs hands*


Augustus Carp said...

Unfortunately, I don't think it is "a PR disaster for the Labour administration on a Howarthian scale." You see, the thing is, only a few dozen people care, and even fewer understand, what the problem is all about. However, one thing everyone knows, especially Reading Labour Party - no-one can do anything whatsoever about it! So, business as usual.

Anonymous said...

There are rumours circulating about the Station Hill development, Chatham Street, Shinfield Road, Madejski Stadium and Smallmead, as well as Reading Buses.

Was said...

It's a fair point that not many residents seem to care if their council is run properly but one set of people who might care are the developers who may spot the opportunity to get some of their money back.

Now that really will hurt Labour more than any amount of column inches.

dreamingspire said...

District Auditor job, then? Or don't they investigate Local Authorities any more?