Up to 15 minutes are allowed for public participation. Participants are restricted to 3 minutes each.
There was one question from a member of the public, as detailed below:
“I call into question the actions of this Committee.
My first concern is with regard to the overwhelming desire to plunge this District into a massive amount of long term debt. I am fully aware of the reduction in Government funding but according to the statement in the year-end financial report there was almost £20m in useable reserves and the Financial Officer said “we have adequate revenue balances to provide financial security”.
CIPFA have issued warnings to all Councils to temper overly excessive borrowing to support purchases of commercial property and I strongly suggest that this Council takes heed of this before purchasing anymore properties. For a £6m investment in a commercial property to show a return it relies on one tenant to pay the rent and in the current economic climate that is always a risk. For that same £6m you could build over 100 houses in the old Wilson Street area and rent these out, giving both rent and council tax revenue with virtually no risk; yes there will be maintenance costs along the way, but as these would be new properties this should not happen straight away.
My second concern is regarding the decision making in regard to purchase of properties and the so called ‘Delegated Powers’ whereby deals are done by a couple of people and then brought to Committee as a ‘done deal’, where papers have already changed hands - this is fundamentally wrong in so many ways.
My next concern relates to companies under either full or partnered ventures currently under this Council’s umbrella, Sure Staff and MSR Ltd. The former losing money year on year and the latter being a total disaster. MSR Ltd was formed with joint capital of £750k and received grants of £171k, making a total of £921k. 3 properties were purchased for a total of £333k; there is currently a balance of £19k and two of the properties are not even finished. That means that it has taken almost £600k to complete the works. That is a ridiculous overspend for this project and you blame this on ‘Heritage Factors’; I blame it on poor management, as can be said for the old Gainsborough Standard office. Purchased, stood empty for 5 years, worth considerably less than the original purchase price plus money spent on refurbishment and now likely to cost over £400k to get it to market; again poor management.
My final concern is with the Crematorium venture and cost involved in the process. The Parish Council at the Planning meeting opposed the plan citing both location and their research on cost. I do not concern myself with the location and I also welcome the new facility, but, I have also looked at cost and find similar builds in the middle of a field where all utilities have to be installed and the total cost was £3.6m; mind you I will point out that this particular company have built 187 crematoria around the country, so they know what they are doing. You on the other hand employ DESIGN CONSULTANTS costing over £50k to come up with a £6m crematorium.
So my question is are you looking after this regions money or, at £6m for Coveris, £6m for Market Rasen Leisure centre, £6m for Crematorium, which makes (666) so do we in actual fact have the devil amongst us?
The response was as follows:
“Thank you Mr Morley for your reflections on our investment strategy. I can assure you that all our investments are made based on appropriate professional advice, due diligence and in line with the governance of the organisation. Our approach is supported by the outcome of both internal and external audits.
CIPFA’s concerns are with those local authorities that have borrowed significantly above what might be considered reasonable. I assure you that our borrowings for this purpose will not exceed more than three times our turnover and is fully explained in our treasury management and asset management strategy.
Your reference to housing whilst optimistic with regards the level of risk, is timely, as we are currently exploring the opportunities housing may offer and I appreciate your support for this strategy.”