People’s Audit Nine – CAPITAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME: “LAMBETH OVERSPENT MORE THAN £11 MILLION ON CORPORATE OFFICE ACCOMMODATION IN NEW TOWN HALL BUILDING”
The council’s accounts state “The council has an ambitious Capital Investment Programme for the four financial years of the current political administration 2014/15 – 2017/18.”
Almost without exception the amount of money spent in the year is down on the original budget (Investment in Community health projects was a mere £11,000 whereas libraries had only £57,000 spent on them).
The council have portrayed these cuts as being necessary in order to protect the most vulnerable. Cllr Jane Edbrooke stated in a Lambeth Labour post “We have looked at the needs of Lambeth’s residents, especially the most vulnerable, and protected these almost hidden services.”
In fact the figures show that some of Lambeth’s most vulnerable residents have been some of the hardest hit. Investment in vulnerable children and adults was £4.37M compared to an original budget of £10.40M.
£12.66M was spent on home improvements for the elderly, disabled and vulnerable compared to an original budget of £14.09M.
The Key Performance Measures (KPMs) that Lambeth measures its performance by show that when it came to the vulnerable, elderly and disabled, the council was rated amber or red for between 66 and 80 per cent of the indicators they were scored against.
Not a sign of success by any measure. What is striking is the number of areas where the amount spent falls significantly short of what was budgeted for.
BOLD For example, the original budget for Lambeth Housing Standard works during the year was £121M, whereas only £64.9M was actually spent against these works. This could mean that the budgeting forecasts were particularly poor or that the council is not delivering services on time.
One area where the council did overspend its original budget was on corporate office accommodation, Lambeth’s new town hall building.
The over-spend here was more than £11,000,000 more than was originally budgeted for. The reasons as to why a project which was trumpeted by the council as saving money has over-spent so much is noted elsewhere in the report.
It is sad to see that at a time of so many cuts Lambeth saw fit to increase the provision in the budget for litigation by £1 million.
The number of instances where the council has spent tax payers’ money on legal fees recently is extensive. Cressingham Gardens, the 414 Club, the Shell Centre and the Garden Bridge to name but a few.
BOLD It has also recently came to light that Lambeth have paid out over £10.4M in compensation and legal fees for disrepair claims in the last five years, the second highest pay-out for a local authority in the UK and nearly 30 per cent of all local authority compensation claims for disrepair.
One effect of Lambeth engaging in so much legal action it that it forces them to air their dirty laundry in public.
One of the revelations of the recent judicial review on the Cressingham Gardens estate redevelopment was that in order to make the development appear to have a positive Net Present Value over 60 years, Lambeth council would have to provide a grant of £7.5m to prop up the development company undertaking the scheme.
BOLD It is clear even to a layperson that if you put enough free money into any scheme it will become financially viable. (Source: Lambeth Peoples’ Audit report).