The Walcot Chronicles: Abandoned Principles Pt 2

This post is a continuation of an earlier blog:  Abandon Principles, All Ye Who Enter Walcot Politically?

The Missing Money of Walcot Mystery continues to deepen as I publish more information concerning Walcots two Conservative councillors, Mvis Childs and Peter Mallinson, and how they seem to have acquiesced in helping their political group take £225,000 of capital money be taken out of their ward so it could be used to help plug a hole in Rod Bluh’s 2010 Black Hole Budget.

In papers presented at Cabinet on Wednesday the 10th of March 2010, the £225,000 SBC, (Swindon Borough Council), received from the University of Bath after it surrendered its lease of the Oakfield campus early, is recorded on Page 17, item (g)

(g) Surrender of Oakfield Lease (£225k)
The Council recently received this payment and as the premises were leased, officers are exploring whether the sum can be treated as revenue income rather than a capital receipt.

Then, on page 15: Table 1: General Fund Forecast

Proposed method of balancing the 2009/10 Budget:

Surrender of Oakfield Lease -225 (g)

(-225 = £225,000)

Cllr Mark Edwards proposed to use this £225,000 to balance his budget, (we all know how that went, but…), and cabinet voted this through.

On Thursday the 8th of April 2010 the Scrutiny committee met “To allow the Scrutiny Committee to consider the decisions arising from the Cabinet Meeting and review the process of Cabinet decision-making and the decisions made”.

Cllr Edwards 2010 budget was discussed at length and Councillors Peter Mallinson and Mavis Childs were both present in their roles as members of the committee.

Records of the public questions show that Talkswindon members Richard Symonds, Des Morgan and Chris Watts were also there. I hope Richard, (because of his ongoing dedication to all things Walcotian), will remember the following because the public record appears to directly contradict information currently being broadcast from Walcot. It would be good to have the minutes verified by one or more witnesses. (I’ll come back to this later).

A direct quote from the minutes of the Scrutiny Committee, Thursday, 8 April 2010

“Councillor Nick Martin referred to the return of the Oakfield Campus from Bath University and the payment of £225,000 in respect of the lease and the use of this money to “absolve particular overspends in Departmental Budgets”. He suggested that the use of the money to only clear overspends was disappointing.

He asked if this was the correct approach and how the Cabinet Member had determined this was the correct action. Councillor Mark Edwards, the Cabinet Member for Benefits and Resources, acknowledged Councillor Martin’s comments, commenting on the Council’s challenging Budget position and the need to bring the Adult Social Care and Children Services Budgets under control in order to avoid the constant challenge of overspends. He felt that taking a “holistic approach to the Budget and the delivery of a balanced Budget position” was essential. He added that it had been a very difficult and challenging year in relation to Adult Social Care with a huge amount of work being carried out to bring this Budget into line and move forward, and whilst he acknowledged Councillor Martin’s comments and the arguments for and against use of Budget resources in a particular way, his approach was that each individual part of the Budget needed to “start looking after itself” and that, at the moment, Adult Social Care was clearly at the top of the list of priorities.”

To be clear then, the £225,000 Bath University paid to SBC disappeared into Cllr Mark Edward’s Budget Black Hole, seemingly into adult care. This was proposed at cabinet on the 10th of March 2010 and challenged at scrutiny by Nick Martin on the 8th of April 2010.

I am reliably informed that[b] neither Cllr Mallinson or Childs uttered a single word in comment or challenge when Cllr Martin challenged the intended use of the £225,000[/b], and were apparently unconcerned that £225,000 of capital money was about to be rebranded as ‘revenue’ by the cabinet and was to be Bluhvered away from Walcot & Parks.

Both Councillor Mallinson and Councillor Childs then voted to pass the budget through scrutiny.

In April 2010 a freedom of information request regarding residual monies from the (now defunct) Parks & East Walcot Renewal Company was received by the Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Office, (Under the Control of Bluh’s political assistant and ‘Staff Officer to the Cabinet’, Douglas Campbell). To date, this request has remained unanswered.

[b]The data exists, no exemption has been claimed, and its release is now overdue by 6 months. This is in contravention of an Act of Parliament [/b]

A similar freedom of information request submitted by Richard Symonds has now been illegally refused by Jill Neale, an officer of the council.

“I am now able to advise you that there is a meeting on 2nd November between local councillors and members of Swindon Walcot and Parks Community Group to discuss the residual funds of the Parks and Walcot Regeneration Project. I am not able to answer your questions ahead of this meeting but will contact you again after the meeting has taken place.”

It may be a pleasant refusal, but it is nevertheless an illegal refusal.

[b]The data exists, no exemption has been claimed, and its release is now overdue. This is in contravention of an Act of Parliament [/b]

My particular points of interest here, (only a few of several), are these:

From late March 2010, John Brownlee, (Joint chair of SWAP, ex Vice chair of Parks & East Walcot Renewal Company & husband of the current chair of SWAP), had been communicating his concerns over the whereabouts of £370,000, (£225,000 of which was the Oakfield money), which, in his own words, had been:

“designated for use on the Parks and East Walcot estates”

There is much more to this, but at this time I would be grateful if someone genuinely in the know could answer these, quite simple, questions:

1. If the £225,000 ‘Oakfield’ was used to balance the 2010 budget, how can the recent statement “The Oakfield Money is safe” be true, and why is it being made?

2. Why did a West Swindon Councillor see fit to voice concern about the £225,000 ‘Oakfield’ Money, but neither Walcot Councillor, (both members of the scrutiny committee), did so?

3. Did Cllrs Mallinson and Childs enter the Scrutiny meeting on the 8th of April 2010 and conduct themselves according to a pre-determined political plan?

4. There are multiple contraventions of the [url=http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/contents]Freedom of Information Act 2000[/url] What is being suppressed?

5. On we on the verge of discovering why Mavis Childs changed her voting intentions on Cllr Edwards’ 2nd 2010 budget and what her pre-vote conversation with Cllr Edwards was really about?

Something, possibly several things, smell more than just a little bit whiffy here.

A discussion topic is already  open on the Talkswindon Forum.

Posted on
Friday, October 29th, 2010
Follow responses trough RSS 2.0 feed.

No Comments Yet to “The Walcot Chronicles: Abandoned Principles Pt 2”

Comments are closed for this article.