Councillors Question £2.1m ‘Black Hole’ In Capital Programme

town hall 4Some of Scilly’s councillors have questioned what appears to be a £2.1m black hole in the authority’s capital programme.

The Finance, Audit and Scrutiny Committee approved the plans, including £4m earmarked for the controversial ‘Smart Islands’ project as well as improvements to water infrastructure, flood defences and the demolition of the old secondary school at Carn Thomas.

But they said officers would need to answer members’ concerns before the budget comes up for final sign off at the next Full Council meeting.

Back in March, the committee refused to ratify the capital plans beyond the current year because they said there wasn’t enough detail on how the money would be spent or how much the Council would have to contribute.

In particular, the planned Smart Islands project, working with Japanese multinational Hitachi to provide an electric vehicle hiring, sharing and scrappage scheme and new street furniture incorporating charging points, proved too much for councillors who felt they hadn’t had all the information they required.

They deferred the decision until a workshop on the scheme could be run.

But at the recent Finance meeting, members were told that the 5-year capital plan will require an investment of £16.95m with only £14.83m funded by external sources.

The remaining £2.1m would need to come from Council coffers.

Cllr Ted Moulson was the first to question that sum. He said he felt the Smart Islands project was good for the islands, but asked whether this level of spending on capital projects was right when the Council had recently approved a £700,000 cost cutting programme for the current financial year.

And Cllr Fran Grottick said she couldn’t approve the spending without knowing where the money was coming from, especially while the authority’s reserves are so low.

Chief Executive Theo Leijser assured members that full business plans would be prepared for each project and it was “normal practice” for the Council to fund the remainder of the costs.

And Town Hall Finance Officer Joseph Abraham said all but £150,000 of the £2.1m had already been found from the authority’s revenue budget.

Officers anticipate borrowing the remaining £150,000, he said.

Councillors approved the capital programme but said they wanted more information on how the shortfall is being funded before final approval at the next Full Council on 8th May.

25 Responses to Councillors Question £2.1m ‘Black Hole’ In Capital Programme

  1. Seeking Justice May 29, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Perhaps the council should consider putting a couple of solar panels on the end of the new quay extension. This would allow the fitment of more lighting, so that one of our tripper boat skipper’s can actually see the quay and not run into it as happened late on Friday evening -with passengers on board too! No mention of this incident as yet, but then there is one law for us and another for the families.

    • Boatman Scilly May 30, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      Defiantly needs a light on the end of the quay should be green what’s happen to the old one was a accident waiting to happen until the sea King ran into it with passengers on bourd harbour master please get something done soon

      • ..... May 31, 2016 at 3:39 pm

        are there not three orange lights on the end of the quay?

  2. Chargepayer May 27, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    I can’t understand why it needs to be referred to as “a black hole”, surely as it is an aspect of the capital programme overseen by the innovation team it should be needlessly and continuously illuminated and have a fully staffed reception?

    • Adam Morton, St.Martins May 28, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Since there is still no mention of this scheme on the council website, it is impossible to to verify either the expected targets or more importantly the sources of funding in black & white. Verbal statements from the Council /councilors can be designed to sell,later denied or modified to suit the results.
      My understanding is that there is no intention to buy a fleet of electric vehicles or force anyone to use them. Providing charging points could encourage their use & purchase by the public.
      The Council will use grant funding to upgrade Hugh Town & Old Town sewerage systems & water supplies as was already intended.
      Hitachi will supply and install a fancy fuseboard/control/monitor system thingy that doesn’t generate electricity but should allow generation by renewables without flicking the mainland trip.
      The Council puts PV panels on the roofs of some of its properties to support the scheme which accounts for its/our investment in the scheme such as it is.
      Now for the crux of the matter; IF you can afford to install insulation, use energy saving appliances etc, you could achieve a 40% energy saving!Well fancy that!!
      This is not quite the way it seems to be painted by the Council and as far as I can see is irrelevant to many people.
      The winner would be -wait for it- Hugh Town sewerage system which would become legal at no cost to residents! The Council would then be safe from fines from the EA.
      Effectively this brightly packaged scheme is another huge slice of grant funding that doesn’t change our wages gap with the mainland or lower any costs to the public.
      The black hole for me is ,WHO exactly is paying for the rest of the renewable generation scheme? By my understanding grant funding for this is impossible and I see no mention of local investment opportunities.That leaves partners the Duchy & RDS putting up wind turbines……likely?
      On other news sites I have seen it intimated that this scheme will solve our waste problems & costs, our transport problems , improve wages and solve housing bottlenecks. If its true then great but I cant see any commitment to that in any real sense!

  3. Enquirer May 23, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Why oh why do the Councilors not get the CEO, Development Officer and all their staff under control. As per usual it again appears to be the case that the staff are dictating to the Councilors and thereby the rest of us. Has everyone forgotten all the recent projects and their dismal record of delivery.
    The Airport which is a disaster, with a roof held down by sandbags, is cold in the winter with a howling gale every time the doors open and a navigation system still not allowed to be used because the basic safety requirements were ignored in the hope that the CAA would let it through and they have not. Oh and it was over budget and we still do not know who is going to pay for that! The Quay improvements which ran massively over time and budget. The Innovation Centre which still only has one tenant, a business which was already well established and no other tenants anywhere in site. If none are forthcoming the funders could well be looking for their money back, it has happened before.
    Have the tax payers been asked if they want an all electric vehicle island, not that I know of? Other than golf buggies the other electric vehicles used on the island have proved problematical, particularly Buzza Bus, which I understand is to be scrapped. New street furniture would be required for many people to recharge their vehicles as they cannot park anywhere near their houses. Some of us need large vehicles because of our way of life and the requirements to service it.
    The Council cannot live within their present budget, have increased staff costs even after a reorganisation meant to cut staff costs. Their Accounting and Budget Control are still woefully inadequate and in general they are failing the tax payers. Let them get their own house in order, then CONSULT the tax payers as to future schemes and developments.

    • Salt Solution May 24, 2016 at 9:50 am

      Enquirer, I completely agree. The focus should be on addressing the core budget deficit and providing essential services that the islands need. Starting a new round of ‘mostly funded’ and unnecessary projects is not appropriate for a council that has so many internal issues to resolve.

  4. astonished May 18, 2016 at 6:57 am

    I see the Japanese were visiting the Council yesterday, must be something in connection with the electric car idea, and why do we need electric cars, Buzza Bus constantly breaks down, what a load of rubbish ideas keep flowing from the Town Hall, total madness.. One day, if ever, something of sense might be suggested.

    • Pete May 19, 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Or where they applying for permission to open a sushi take away establishment.

      • Samuel Seal Esquire May 20, 2016 at 5:15 pm

        I jolly well hope so, about time I say!!

  5. John Allsop May 14, 2016 at 12:18 am

    Electric cars.Are these intended to replace the existing cars. If they are, is it expected that the owners of existung cars will send then to the mainland and sell them.Or do all the existing cars stay and a thousand electric powered ones are added to the present number when the multi story car park is built. Is it intended to pass a bye law prohibiting combustion powered cars or ban the sale of petrol. There are only a relativly few tax payers and the council plus it,s advisors take about spending millions of pounds it hasn,t got and can never sensibly raise.

  6. Adam Morton, St.Martins May 10, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Its all as clear as mud but it is true we do need to do something about the electricity supply as the mainland cable is at capacity and the grid unable to accept significant generation installations in many areas.
    I just don’t believe the figures quoted by the Council . I think it’s all based on the supposition that “partners” ;( IP, Duchy of Cornwall, Tresco estate and Hitachi ) will stump up the balance of the cash or presumably apply for grants individually?
    Where I think the Council is misleading us is that the figures quoted are in fact only to put some solar panels on some of its housing stock which in fact contribute a miniscule part towards this scheme.There isn’t any indication as to when or IF any of the rest of it will occur!Effectively the ratepayer is funding solar panels on council property already let at substantially below private rents, which perhaps will then be sold off on the right to buy?
    Supposedly our electricity will cost 40% less, our waste affordable and our housing bottlenecks & transport sorted all for £200.000!!!! Except that it isn’t, it’s all based on provisoes.Effectively it SOUNDS like the Council is doing something about these issues so they can claim it as a success IF it happens or it wasn’t their project if nothing happens!(Like St.Mary’s quay!)
    In Council speak; the waste system is now affordable! With the quay and airport projects our transport is sorted! Keep your eyes open for the council granting rights for open market properties when the new plan comes in and the housing will be declared sorted!
    Back in the other world it looks like the failure to sort transport has meant a snowballing of waste costs, we have 20m of quay with untold overspends for a ship we haven’t got and a monopoly transport provider that’s hiking costs far ahead of inflation. An egnos system that hasn’t made the slightest difference to the reliability of flights. Never mind – the roads on St.Marys are great but we wont talk about the new drains that aren’t underneath them.

    • Linda Badcock May 12, 2016 at 12:30 pm

      Adam, whilst I do not agree with all of your views, the above facts I agree with other than the housing, let me explain, I take a breath here. Rents paid by some are in,my opinion too high for the accommodation provided and maintained by the council with their responsibility being ignored.
      Before even considering spending borrowed money on the existing housing with solar pannelling etc. much needed outstanding repairs to the existing stock must be addressed.
      Accommodation classed as a flat that has greenhouse temperatures, blocked up hole left by previous occupant,dilapidated shower room floor that has fallen through and damp throughout, these have been ongoing for some considerable time, been reported and not addressed.
      Whilst I am obviously not as eliquent trust you get my drift without taking offence.

      • Mike N May 12, 2016 at 10:21 pm

        There should be absolutely no reason for the Council to borrow money to upgrade the housing stock. In April 2015 they had £1.8m in the housing reserve – what are they saving it for? It should be spent on improvements if that’s what is required!

  7. Chris Peat May 9, 2016 at 11:35 am

    If cars on Scilly could be replaced by electric vehicles it would make a huge improvement to the environment, benefiting locals and visitors alike. There is absolutely no need for any street furniture/charging points though, as these are intended for topping up vehicles that have ventured out of range of their homes. Most current generation electric vehicles could drive round St. Mary’s ten times or more on one overnight charge.

    • Vehicle to Grid May 10, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      I believe there would be advantages to having charging points, assuming we also had the technology to harness wind, wave and solar power – it would be less advantageous to use the power from the cable from the mainland, particularly if we’re trying to be more sympathetic to the environment.

      As you point out, journeys here are very short and car batteries hold much more energy than you would need in a normal day, and just like everywhere else, most vehicles spend most of their working lives parked up somewhere. If our vehicles here were electric, they could play a very important dual role in both providing transport, and, more importantly, also acting as a massive stock of batteries that could be put to incredible use by storing the energy from turbines and solar panels for use in our homes. There is a massive opportunity here, we just need to put the right people on the case.


  8. Linguine May 8, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    If the ‘officers’ have got any sense they wouldn’t want to mention anything they have done so far on their CV’s, it might engender the question at interview how many projects came in on budget?
    As for the Chairman and £15m (fifteen million pounds for the linguist) you know she doesn’t do tedious sums, moreover it is increasingly apparent few of her officers do either.
    The remaining consideration for the humble charge payer in all this is whether it is best to laugh or cry.

  9. Rasputin May 8, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    We do not holiday on Scilly to find that there are nice electric plug in points for electric vehicles; new street furniture etc etc. It makes me wonder what planet the Chief Executive and Chairman are on. They certainly do not seem to have the interests of Scilly at heart.

    Are they determined to destroy everything that makes Scilly so attractive to visitors? The Scillonian magazine used to have a legend: ‘Scilly is special. Don’t change it’

    The epitaph for the misguided leaders of the Council (and the sheep who follow them) will be ‘Scilly was special but we changed it’

    And then there will not be any visitors to provide the vital income for islanders who live and work on Scilly year round.

    Why doesn’t the Council just concentrate on the basics: a proper affordable and regular transport service;.and good top quality accomodation.

    Get that right and everything else will follow.

    • fed up now May 9, 2016 at 9:55 am

      how is the accomodation anything to do with local govt at all?
      The whole idea of the council (as with your loocal council) is to serve and improve the lives of RESIDENTS, not holiday makers. Why should my council tax go anywhere NEAR your holiday?
      get a grip of reality, please.

  10. Tresco Trumpet May 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Yeah But only about 5% visit St Martins so it’s probably not worth doing.

    • Tresco Armpit May 10, 2016 at 7:23 am

      Perhaps rates will increase when Tresco takes over St Martin’s as well?

      • Pete May 10, 2016 at 9:03 am

        Why spoil St Martin’s???

  11. Adam Morton, St.Martins May 8, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Let me guess; the water improvements relate to St.Marys, The vehicle scheme will only be available on St.Marys and the flood defences will be part funded by the Council, only on St.Marys.Naturally the secondary school site will provide housing on ….. The bill for “revenue”funding however will equally distributed across all the islands!That’s before we start on inevitable overspends and problems only unforeseen by council officers.When the chairman was scaremongering at our public meeting about water regulations, i’m pretty sure a figure of at least £15m was mentioned for hugh town sewerage alone!
    So all this stuff about not being able to afford non statutory services is just a load of ………They can find the money when it’s some shiney new toy the officers can point to on their list of achievements in their CVs!Still haven’t organised a water supply for handwashing in our public loos! Never mind its not like the visitors account for 80% of our economy or anything!!!

    • fed up now May 9, 2016 at 9:49 am

      the off islands (with the exception of Bryher) have absolutely NO right to moan about water infrastructure. You yourselves chose to not have your water run and maintained by the council through island referendums a few decades ago. Because of this, yes, the council puts money into improving the waterr on bryher and st marys, because it is our water authority. If the people of St Martins had chosen to be part of the same system, you would be getting the same investments. As it is, you chose not to be. Its the people of st martins who are to blame for the lack of council funding towards water infrastructure, not the council

      • Adam Morton, St.Martins May 10, 2016 at 9:18 am

        I didn’t choose anything!The council turned off the supply to our public loos!I’m still happy to not have a council supply but I’m not happy to be paying for both! We used to have a launch subsidy instead of some services but the council stopped that too! We didn’t choose to pay council tax but I see that doesn’t stop the bills coming in!How is that our fault? I’m not saying our representatives should not have been fighting harder for us rather than becoming chairman. Your comment really is utter rubbish and the poorest excuse for greed at the expense of others.You should be glad the off islands did opt out (if they did) or it would be costing us all millions more than it is now! That doesn’t mean we don’t need or want anything instead.
        Some of you people really do give St.Marys a bad name for the total bigotry coming out of it and the anonymity spreads suspicion. Asking for you fair share of your own taxes isn’t moaning its common sense! The system is there to provide for all no matter what their location. Why the heck do you think you are entitled to £5 medical flights just because you live on St.Marys and have extra costs as a result ?Yet you would choke on your cornflakes if it was even suggested that an off islander was to be subsidised for choosing to live further away from the services!