Plymouth gives away site; developer puts PART of it up for sale for £6 million

“Parts of the Plymouth Pavilions have been listed for possible sale, it has been revealed.

Devon businessman James Brent, who was given the site by Plymouth City Council in 2012, has advertised the pavilions as a “development site” with a guide price of £6m.

He is not selling the Pavilions centrepiece – its music arena. He plans to keep and improve that area.

In 2012, the council, which could not afford to renovate the site, struck a deal with Mr Brent. The authority called the decision “a huge step forward” for the Pavilions and claimed £83m would be invested.

Tim Jones, from the South West Business Council, said he was “disappointed” the potential development had not happened before the site went on the market.

No-one we’ve spoken to is accusing Mr Brent of profiteering, even if this sale does go through, as it was costing the cash-strapped council more than £1.5m a year to keep the Pavilions going. Mr Brent has taken that burden on.

A spokesman for Mr Brent said the businessman was “just exploring options”.

EDDC car parking permit charges “survey”

Nore this is not a formal consultation and, as you might expect, is about raising and extending charges, not reducing them – specifically for car parking permits.

“Anyone interested in learning more about the changes and who wants to have their say, should visit: Alternatively, anyone who would like a paper copy of the consultation posted to them, or who needs the consultation in another format, then please call the council on 01395 517569.”

Chances of your comments making any difference – zero. But do it anyway and let them know how you feel.

And maybe don’t vote for Tory councillors next time round?

“Ain’t too proud to beg”

Hot on the heels of this article:

“A donation box installed on Sidmouth seafront that has been removed for maintenance will not be reinstated as the repairs are ‘too costly’.

A Freedom of Information Request submitted to the council had revealed that so far the council has received less money in donations than the cost of installing the box itself. …

… The cost of the sign and its legs were £276, and the cost of the box was £125, and the amount collected to date is £165.75, the Freedom of Information Request reveals. …”

comes this cartoon from the current Private Eye:

Council borrowing so high, government intervention may be needed

EDDC is borrowing to fund the building of its new HQ and to fund its “Growth Point” and is also considering going into the housing construction market.

“Local authorities could face further intervention by central government if new changes to investment and treasury codes fail to dampen council borrowing levels, according to a senior Whitehall official. …

[A conference speaker said] … “said: “When last year local authorities borrowed an additional £3.8bn, that was a £3.8bn increase in net debt. “That was £3.8bn less that the chancellor had available to distribute as funding across the board at the last budget. “So, local authority borrowing does have a real world impact in the overall quantum of funding that is available to government.”

In addition, he said that concerns have been raised that councils investing in particular asset classes can drive prices up, creating a bubble.

New principles on proportionality included in the code were triggered by some smaller authorities taking on huge sums of debt relative to their size, Caller [the speaker] added.

“We had concerns that those authorities who were doing that were effectively assuming that government stood behind their risk. “That is not the statutory position, and it is not a position we want to encourage. “What the legislation says is that effectively it is council tax payers that have to make good any deficit in those assumptions, not central government. We want people to remember that.” …

“Survey reveals another section 114 notice [council insolvency] expected within a year”

Some councils are taking on riskier investments with consequent higher returns to maximise income – risky indeed in the current uncertain financial climate. As with those councils that bought (non-local) shopping centres as investments … which will need very savvy auditors to monitor …

“Three quarters of senior finance officers expect at least one other council to issue a section 114 notice in the next 12 months, according to a Room151 survey.

Last month, Northamptonshire County Council’s director of finance issued a 114 notice imposing immediate spending controls on the authority.

Room151’s Local Government Finance & Treasury Current Affairs Survey, sponsored by investment manager CCLA, found that more than half of respondents expect one or two more notices in the next year.

Presenting the findings to Room151’s LATIF north conference in Manchester this week, John Kelly, client director at CCLA, said that a further 20% expect between three and five further section 114s, with 3.5% expecting between five and 10.

However, when asked about their own council, 56% of treasury officers said they were either confident, or very confident, of financial sustainability.

Kelly said this result “doesn’t suggest there is any panic or any need to get unduly worried at present”.
Elsewhere in the research, 36% of those surveyed said that they had begun to invest in higher yielding instruments, due to the current funding squeeze, compared to 30% who said there had been no impact. …”

“Financial Peer Review Northamptonshire County Council”

Northamptonshire County Council is effectively bankrupt. This is a peer review report if their financial situation last year. Some worrying similarities!

Some lessons for officers and councillors.

For example:

“4.3.8 There is a lack of sufficient challenge among officers and from members. There is a considerable amount of trust in plans that are presented without evidence that those plans have been challenged. Some Portfolio holders readily accept the information they are given without systematic and robust challenge. There is a tendency for cabinet members to trust that the relevant individual portfolio holder has challenged proposals.

4.3.9 Decisions taken by the Cabinet need greater transparency. Council members and scrutiny chairs need access to more information. There was a desire expressed from some cabinet members for greater discussion and challenge across portfolios. However, where challenge has been provided, for example from the Audit Committee, that has not been welcomed.”

Northamptonshire CC – FINAL Feedback Report

Do our council officers have enough to do?

Owl says: And if EDDC pitches for these services and does not get them , who foots the bill and what work will the officers NOT have done that we are paying for? And what about that dang conflict of interest?

“We will explore the potential benefits that might arise from working with other local authorities including Exeter City Council, Teignbridge District Council and Mid Devon District Council to deliver advice, support, training and auditing services to businesses across the region.”