LETTER: Council have little interest in value for money

Your letters
Your letters

It is enlightening reading the pages of your paper where one has a glimpse how HDC appears to be having problems in handling its income from us taxpayers in an efficient and economical manner.

In the July 30 edition it was reported that district councillors discussed raising council tax by up to three per cent (but didn’t Cllr Dawe in May pledge not to increase council tax?)

Could a tax increase be on the horizon because of the number of project debacles in the district in recent years, ranging from the Billingshurst Pool (where the pool tiles dropped off); Acorn Plus (with the massive overspend investigated by Scrutiny Committee that reported HDC’s project accounting was ‘bizarre’); West Street where £600,000 has been spent with the result that it now looks worse than it did before; and the Business Transformation Programme (BTP) which appears to involve the recruitment of a ‘Social Media Officer’, to run the council’s Facebook and Twitter account, with a salary of more than £38,000 ‘plus benefits’ (WSCT, 24.9.15, p4)!

Could it also be due to the money they have lost recently in Cllr Vickers’ planning department where in Quarter 4 (2014/15) alone £347,619 was expended on ‘settling legal fees, expert witness fees and costs awarded against the Council’ (Finance & Performance Working Group, 18.6.15, p73). Already in the Quarter 1 (2015/16) the figure is £46,881 and we await Quarter 2 figures.

An example of another impending debacle came into view at a council meeting on April 29, where there was a proposal to spend £4.55m for a new waste vehicle repair facility at Hop Oast to replace one in Hurston Lane which, in theory, would show a saving of £35,000 p.a.

One councillor proposed that, since the plan is premature, the decision to rebuild Hop Oast be held, until the BTP commissioning phase and the assessment of options, has been completed. That was presumably because expenditure on the new Hop Oast facility could be rendered unnecessary, if HDC decides to share waste collection services with other local councils - or if it outsources the service to a contractor, with its own vehicle repair facilities.

That is a real possibility, since the ‘commissioning phase’ of Cllr Dawe’s BTP plan has still to be completed, which could lead to outsourcing or sharing of the services (or ‘privatising’ parts of the council).

The proposal to defer the decision (which for some unexplained reason was not minuted) was surely not unreasonable in the absence of a proper business case.

But once again councillors of the ruling group appear to simply follow their Leader, Cllr Dawe, with little interest in value for money.

As a matter of interest, I understand should a similar amount be spent on a car park or business park the yield could be £250,000 p.a. which would negate the proposed three per cent tax increase. Perhaps HDC should ask residents which option they would prefer?

We do not want to hear reports of another project overspend, taking the cost of the new facility to £5m or more and that the new facility might not be needed after all?

EDUARDO DELGADO

Parry Close, Horsham

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