Again a brilliant argument penned by Ken Rickards.
If you are like me and are interested in how our council tax here in Cornwall is spent and question whether we are getting value for our money, the following information should enlighten you one way or another.
The first slice of our council tax, in fact 19%, is gobbled up and stashed away into the council’s pension pot which at present has a shortfall of over £350 million, this 19% has first call above all other spending. National Fiscal experts forecast that this figure will rise to 30% by 2020, which could result in a considerable rise in the council tax we pay.
In 2012 Cornwall Council had to borrow money from the banks at taxpayers expense, to fund a loan of £25 million to SITA , now known as SUEZ, who had requested help in funding the purchase of the incinerator. This loan which boarders on mis-appropriation of taxpayer’s money surely raises many questions as to why this loan which benefits the shareholders of SUEZ a private company was ever agreed.
We are paying waste contractor Cory £1.3 million a month to collect our waste and we also pay SUEZ £1.9 million a month for disposing of the waste and the recycled items which it goes on to sell for a profit.
A major bone of contention is the continuation of the waste contract with SUEZ which consultants have declared to be out of date, not fit for purpose and does not give taxpayers value for their money.
In 2012 DCLG (Westminster) gave Cornwall Council a £1.3million grant from the Weekly Collection Support Scheme to assist in the retention of weekly black bag waste collections.The council spent £800,000 of it on providing equipment for SUEZ to operate a shredded wood export service project which has now ceased as it did prove not to be financially viable. The remainder of the grant has been spent on waste consultations and reports.
It also spent £13 million on building a private haul road for access to the incinerator, which incidentally contravened the Waste Local Plan. This figure will rise still further when all costs are calculated and when reoccurring annual rental costs are applied. Once again taxpayers money spent for the ultimate benefit of a private company’s shareholders.
We now learn that the construction project for exporting of electricity generated from SUEZ’s incinerator to the Indian Queens Power Station will cost taxpayers in the region of £3 million, no one appears to know what the contract price is. A similar project to connect the water mains to the incinerator will also be paid for by taxpayers, to date this cost is unknown.
Cornwall Council has pledged £10 million to the Temple A30 road improvement project when, as a trunk road, it is the responsibility of the England Highways not Cornwall’s taxpayers.
New Council offices in Bodmin has a project cost of £15 million. One of the main reasons for this project was to accommodate BT shared services administration which as we all know has failed miserably.
We also learn that although the council has boasted it has only closed 31 public toilets as part of austerity measures it has found £1 million to buy beach huts for a North Cornwall Beach.
Cornwall Council has a debt at the end of July 2015 of £731 million, the interest charges must be astronomical. Not much chance of the Unitary promise of £19 million savings a year ever coming to fruition.
One of the latest fiascos surrounding the cancelling of the shared services contract with BT, after only two years of the £260 million 10 year term, is that it has to date cost us over £2 million a month. We now learn that BT has challenged the decision to terminate the contract in the High Court, if BT are successful this will gobble up more of our taxes.
Although we are aware of financial implications from Europe, questions still remain over the continued financial subsidising of Newquay Airport which will never be viable, how this has been allowed to continue just to save face in these times of restraint is just unbelievable.
Is it any wonder that in 2014 the Council’s external auditors, Grant Thornton of Bristol, reported that the control of capital projects was poor which resulted in a great financial risk to the authority. Now we find that the council’s own audit committee have recorded at the September 2015 meeting that the management of many services are declared to be poor and the resulting risk to the authority is high.
All figures are taken from the authority’s own documents, minutes, statements and e-mails.
The question is do you think we are getting value for our money?