We’ve taken another shifty at the CBC Cabinet proposals to gift North Essex Garden Communities a further £100,000 of public money at the meeting on Wednesday evening.
And whaddya know?
The ‘apolitical’ Officer’s report [pdf] is about as sound as the officially ‘unsound’ bloody Garden Villages plans that were rejected by the government Inspector back in July.
But first, a financial recap:
Back in February 2016 CBC agreed to give NEGC – the company set up by Braintree, Tendring, Essex and Colchester Councils – a quarter of a million pounds to help progress with the plans for 40,000-ish new homes.
How is that one going, fellas?
But wait! There’s more…
An additional quarter of a million was spunked in the direction of NEGC by CBC in September 2017.
That’s half a million of public funds in Colchester from the Council that let us not forget is officially at ‘breaking point.’
The Cabinet report for Wednesday confirms that central government has also given NEGC ‘over £2M’ since the company was first set up.
Why do public bodies keep on throwing taxpayers’ money at this failed scheme?
Which brings us back to Wednesday evening at the Town Hall and the Cabinet agenda item:
North Essex Garden Communities Ltd – Shareholder Approvals and update
The report explains:
“The role of NEGC Ltd has been successfully developed to the point where it is a fully operational company recognised by the by the public, private sectors, and local communities, as the focal point for the North Essex Garden Communities project.”
Recognised, maybe; accepted – most certainly not.
“This includes developing a strategic proposition for the North Essex Garden Communities which has gained significant traction with key government departments.”
The only traction we can see any evidence of is a government Inspector saying that the plans are ‘unsound.’
Money for nothing, etc.
Dig a little deeper into the CBC Cabinet report for Wednesday and you see that the £100,000 now being asked is actually a stop gap measure.
This is to help finance the Interim Plan for NEGC:
“The Interim Business Plan is a precursor to the future preparation of a 5 year Business Plan which will be progressed when further progress is made with the Local Plan.”
It’s basically a holding plan to keep the proposals ticking over whilst the brains of NEGC can work out if it has a long term business plan.
Betcha that will cost a few extra bob as well.
Some degree of accountability is opened up in the Cabinet report about the mirky dealings of NEGC:
“The budget is based on an expenditure of £2.967m against an income of £3.216m.”
What exactly is NEGC spending this money on?
Listed items include:
“Demonstrating the viability of the Garden Communities; and input into the Rapid Transit System work.”
aka as a dedicated bus lane.
Plus £130,000 will be spent on communications.
You can fool some of the people some of the time, etc.
The budget is reliant on the four Councils coughing up this extra £100,00 each:
“The assumed income includes an additional £100k contribution from shareholder Councils within 2018/19.”
NEVER assume, Comrades.
But they do:
“The budget currently assumes an additional £1m from Government in 2018/19.”
That’s a mighty financial assumption in which to waste further public money.
Plus it doesn’t stop there:
“In addition, NEGC Ltd is seeking a further £40k from third parties including Uttlesford District Council.”
NEGC asking Wivenhoe Town Council to get the cheque book out?
Good luck with that one.
The ‘apolitical’ CBC Cabinet report concludes:
“The £100,000 should not be viewed in isolation as it is likely that the North Essex Authorities will be required to consider further financial support of the project until such time as a more clear investment opportunity is presented where long term returns are anticipated.”
Time to bite the hand that feeds, Mark?