Scrutinising Scrutiny

Colchester Borough Council has a surplus of £471, 000 to carry forward for 2015/16.

This comes despite a £289, 000 cut in the central government grant, as well as some big spending items such as £869, 700 on the St Botolphs’s regeneration.

These figures will be considered when the Scrutiny Panel at CBC meets at the Town Hall on Tuesday.

The Financial Monitoring Report – End of Year 2014/15 [pdf] states:

“The overall position on services has improved from that reported at Period 9.”

One of the largest changes includes additional parking income – although no figure in the report prepared by the Assistant Chief Executive is given for this increase in income.

It will be interesting to see if parking revenue from town centre car parks continues to trouser in a nice little earner for CBC over the coming year, after ECC has been running Park ‘n’ Ride.

The money spent on St Botolphs’s regeneration is actually a saving. A figure of £876, 000 was in the budget – a saving of £70, 000.

There is no explanation on precisely this big spender has delivered though.

The surplus is also explained as a result of:

“VAT refund as a result of a claim.”


Meanwhile it is interesting to see that £185, 000 for street lighting still remains in the budget moving forward.

This was the final act of outgoing CBC Leader Martin Hunt in an attempt to pay ECC to TURN ON Sunny Colch once again.

ECC politely turned down the offer, but it seems that the money remains in the budget for a possible attempt at brokering a deal.

Flashing BRIGHT RED however is the amber warning in the report regarding the central government grant to CBC.

This was slashed in 2014/15 from a predicted £1, 852, 000 down to an actual £1 ,563, 000 – £289, 000 less.

The trick in running a surplus is to decide wisely what to spend it on. It’s not always a smart move to have excess savings. This sends out the message to the Department for Communities and Local Government that it can cut further.

The CBC Scrutiny Report puts forward a number of future spending projects that are now expected to appear on the agenda for Cabinet in July.

These include £60, 000 for a Customer Relationship Manager:

“To develop the CRM project within our coordinated programme of customer contact systems which need to be aligned and joined up to provide integrated online and assisted customer journeys.

This work will significantly contribute to the organisations channel shift and savings targets and be a key driver towards our ‘Digital by choice’ ethos.”

We think this means hiring someone to get residents to use the modern interweb.

Plus £70, 000 is being spent to get the ICT network talking to CBC staff:

“This new solution will offer staff and members access to Colchester’s IT network from a wider range of devices than is possible at present.”

£100, 000 will be made as a one-off payment for the Town Walls:

“Additional one-off investment to provide for ongoing maintenance and build a fund, which will reduce the need to commit larger amounts of capital resources every few years.”

Another agenda includes: Irrecoverable Debts over £5, 000.

In total these add up to £98, 237.28.

Residents will not be allowed to attend this part of the meeting.

Which makes us wonder who is actually being scrutinised here?