Waverley taxpayers – mind your own business.

It’s a bit like a long-playing record really – the funding for the Brightwells redevelopment project in Farnham is in place…again!

You heard  it here first, two weeks ago, that Surrey County Council is putting up a shedload of cash for the unpopular East Street development – we didn’t use it as our April Fools piece – we left it to the Farnham Herald, and they did it proud!

But when a brave Waverley Councillor John Williamson for the Farnham Residents’ asked The Executive Leader last night  for more details – yes – you guessed he was given short shrift. As he was the previous day when he wrote to  EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Paul “Wen-ham I leaving.” Only When-I-get the job of returning officer so I can boost my big fat pension. Oops I already have!

Because – only the Conservative Administration of Waverley Council is allowed to know what is going on Cllr Williamson – not you!  This is not a democracy you know!Did you think that just because you were a councillor elected by the people of Farnham you would be told what was going on inside Waverley Towers! Silly old you.

And anyway – “it has  nothing to do with this council”  responded  Leader Knowless who is  happy  not  to answer a question/challenge from wherever it comes? “This is a matter between Surrey County Council and Crest Nicholson and if you want to know any more ask Surrey County Council.”  Lets move on to the next item on the Agenda…

Is it any wonder that few people ever ask questions of WBC – because the utter contempt with which their genuine concerns and questions are dealt with – is quite frankly – a disgrace.

  Where city hedge funds and other major investment  institutions have long feared to tread, Surrey County Council  has now apparently rushed in. A  county council spokesman saying  that “ Surrey County Council is investing in  the proposed Brightwells regeneration  plans for Farnham as we are committed to  supporting  economic growth in the county”.  The Herald article goes on to say that the “details and extent of Surrey’s funding remains unclear.”  In other words we aren’t telling you or anyone else, expect the Conservative leadership  of WBC!

When will Waverley’s backbenchers stand up and be counted? Wimps!

It is the source of this investment that is likely to interest many Farnham Council Tax payers.

Local authorities are required in law to hold financial reserves which they are permitted to invest in order to generate a return, although certain types of investment that are considered too risky are prohibited.  Treasury management guidance stresses the need for local authorities to take into account the risks surrounding security, liquidity (the ability to access their money when required) and yield (the revenue obtained from their investment). 

As local authorities face further severe budget cuts , it is  unlikely there’s  much cash to spare and that statutory reserves will be reduced to an essential minimum. Leaving to one side the amount that Surrey County Councillors are able and prepared to invest from their reserves, Council Tax payers are entitled to question by what process of ‘due diligence’ Surrey County Councillors have satisfied themselves that this controversial scheme, that has remained essentially unchanged since it was first unveiled in 2002 and has subsequently failed to attract funding from city institutions, represents a sound and sustainable long term investment.

SCC may also be accessing finance from its Growing Places Fund intended to “unlock development and promote economic growth in Surrey”. The Fund is managed locally by two Local Enterprise Partnerships, one of which, Enterprise M3, previously   loaned £1.5m to Waverley Borough Council to enable relocation of the tennis courts away from the central Brightwell’s site. The group’s chairman, Geoff French, has described the Brightwell’s regeneration   project “as exactly the type of project that the Growing Places Fund was established for”.   With at least one member of Crest Nicholson senior management team holding a senior role on the on the Executive Board of Enterprise M3, it seems   apposite   to ask whether advice on which Surrey County Councillors have based their decision to invest in the current Brightwell’s scheme (to which the Farnham Town Council made a formal objection) is as objective as Council Tax payers, particularly in Farnham but also in Surrey as a whole, have every right to expect?   Are County Councillors aware of the many unresolved infrastructure and planning issues that continue to bedevil this project?

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Sandars

 

 

 

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