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News and Comment February 2021

Index: 2019202020212022

7 February - That֦’s the way the money goes

Last week’s Resources Scrutiny meeting spent a few minutes discussing the Financial Improvement Plan.

Councillor Steven Hall (Conservative, East Wickham) queried the large number of its component parts which were marked “not yet started or amber”. The Finance Department’s excuse was that the plan presented to the Committee in early February had been written before Christmas and “things had moved on quite considerably”. (What use is it for Councillors to be scrutinising old stuff?)

Councillor Hall asked for an up to date copy.

He also asked if there had been any survey into staff morale and why half a million pounds had been allocated towards augmenting the Finance Team. Half a million!

Apparently it stems from the decision to pull out of oneSource. (The Havering/Newham consortium that was supposed to save money.) More job opportunities in Barnet perhaps? Staff morale has not been studied.

Councillor Hall taking his scrutiny role more seriously than most asked about the “interim roles” referenced in the Agenda. The Deputy to the Finance Director said “there were quite a lot of interim roles”. Once again, oneSource was the excuse given. “Support is needed to implement the whole Improvement Plan.”

The Councillor’s question on costs went unanswered but the additional roles will likely be in place until August. (It’s only your money.)

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour Leader, Belvedere) asked if finance team leaders taking on extra roles were likely to get into the same sort of mess that the housing team did - although rather more politely than that. “It will not have a material impact.”

Councillor Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked where things stood with the £15 million Government Capitalisation Order. Cabinet Member Leaf said “an announcement will be made public in the very near imminent future”. Councillor Ferreira said “it was due by the end of December, then the end of January so it might come soon enough”.

Councillor Francis, referring to the downturn on the High Streets, asked what impact there will be on Council owned shopping centres. Similarly the parking revenues. Cabinet Member Leaf said there will need to be an analysis of both. “It is crystal ball territory at the moment.”

A financial stream not yet tapped is a fine on Councillors and staff who drop the words “Going Forward” into every statement.


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