Councillors Question £2.1m ‘Black Hole’ In 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.