Neil Hargreaves: How is £millions wasted ‘Fiscally prudent & good value?”

I spoke last night at the UDC full council meeting. Bringing my financial experience to the table, I explored the wasted millions at UDC, and laid the criticism at the foot of councillors and not the paid staff who have to enact policy.

Here is my statement:

Our council leader must be a Monty Python fan. Despite the Inspector declaring the Local Plan to be definitely deceased, Cllr Rolfe is insisting it is not dead, it is just resting. But unlike the dead parrot sketch this is not funny. Not for the people of Elsenham and Henham suffering the cost and worry of planning blight, and no joke for residents paying out hundreds of thousands of pounds to fight planning applications which this council failed to protect them from.


So how much has this rejected plan cost the council? We have asked for a full analysis, but from the details already available it looks like over 8 years it may have cost up to £4 million.


Here’s an example. In 2009 UDC commissioned a consultant for £52,000 to investigate the district’s sewage systems. They reported that most of our sewerage network is in a dire condition. Other words are available. Five years later where are the remedial plans for this? Nowhere – what is the point of paying experts and then ignoring what they say? But there is a little ray of sunshine. The consultants say just one area near here has a good system. Guess where! Yes, Great Chesterford! You couldn’t make it up.


With these wasted millions we could have had free car parking for everyone for seven years. Good for business. Or we could have had a council tax holiday for a year. Be nice.


And there’s yet more financial mess. The council is holding £19 million of reserves. Even taking the most prudent view of what is needed, that is about £4 million too much. Some of the reserves are duplicates, some reserves have descriptions so vague you could use them for anything, and some reserves just look unnecessary.


So this council has squandered £4million on the Local Plan, and squirreled away another £4million on top. £8 million of taxpayers cash.


Now Cllr Redfern was recently telling the Saffron Walden Reporter about the length of the housing list. We could have had another 70 council houses!


Finally, in that popular periodical Uttlesford Life, Cllr Rolfe told us that ‘Fiscal prudence and good value will always remain core objectives…. your money should be used in accordance with your wishes’


Please therefore will Cllrs Barker and Rolfe explain how wasting £4million is ‘fiscally prudent and good value’? And when totally rejected, how can they claim to have spent this money ‘in accordance with residents wishes’?


Thank you
Neil Hargreaves