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Concern over where council funds have been redirected

 
Created on 25/01/2020 @ 09:26
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The details of a transfer of money from one Powys County Council account to another worth nearly £665,000 were not explained in a public meeting due to “commercial confidentiality."

Councillors were asked to approve a “virement” from the Ladywell House project in Newtown to a new fund that supports “economic development.”

This is because the Ladywell House project has received a grant for £1,029,872 grant from the Welsh Government and allows Powys County Council to move money away from it.

Cllr Jake Berriman said: “My concern is about the transparency. £665,000 will be used for ‘Economic Development Activities.’

“It’s not at all clear what that means and that is a significant amount of money.”

Portfolio Holder for for Economic Development, Housing and Regulatory Services, Cllr James Evans said: “There are number of projects possibly for next year across the county that are commercially sensitive.

Corporate director for economy and environment Nigel Brinn added that work was going on to put together bids for more grant funding.

Cllr Elwyn Vaghan said: “I see this as a very ambiguous report and I understood the costs of Ladywell House had increased to £5 million before this grant.

“In theory I have no issues with the virement but there are questions about the project and I feel we should see the full details.”

Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr Aled Davies said: “I don’t think there would be any problems bringing this to a scrutiny committee so that it can be looked at.”

Cllr Liam Fitzpatrick said: “I think we need to be a lot more responsible in relation to our virements and where this money is going.”

“We need to prove to the public that we are holding the cabinet and the SMT (Senior Management Team) to account on this.

“Can I have a full explanation? If we need to go into private and confidential session then let it be.”

Cllr Evans answered: “I’ll make sure the service get back to you.”

Cllr Fitzpatrick then proposed that the virement be deferred until a business case is presented explaining the transfer need.

The motion to defer was defeated by 48 votes to 16.

Cllr Davies added: “We have clear advice  from the s151 (Jane Thomas head of inance) officer that we should not leave the money in the Ladywell House Fund because that has sufficient funding.”

“Clear business cases will need to be made before that money is used.”

The virement was then voted through by 57 votes, five against and two abstentions.

Following the meeting Cllr Fitzpatrick told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he would be submitting a FOI (Freedom of Information) request for more information on the £665,000.

Cllr Fitzpatrick said: “I am deeply unhappy about this transfer to an unknown account without sufficient evidence.

“Virements are not scrutinised by any committees and should be before being presented to full council.”

PCC  bought the building from the Welsh Government in 2017 and has been trying to convert it into offices, so far the refurbishment is estimated to cost £5 million.

 

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service

 

 

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