R4U uncovers UDC leadership hid £3.3m loss from property investment

Residents for Uttlesford has found that the UDC leadership hid a £3.3m property investment loss and insolvency from councillors, which it has now been forced to disclose. The loss was in UDC’s property subsidiary Aspire (CRP) Limited, and related to its controversial investment in Chesterford Research Park.

Neil Hargreaves (R4U) Neil Hargreaves (R4U)

R4U’s Cllr Neil Hargreaves, a professionally trained accountant said “We have uncovered that the UDC leadership tried to hide a £3.3m loss that it made in its property investment subsidiary company. To hide the loss it used a not-fit-for-purpose accounting treatment that is banned in the private sector. The government now requires councils to use a standard accounting procedure for investments. R4U has evidence in writing that confirms that the UDC leader knew about the loss but hid it from councillors until after the council’s annual accounts had been signed off.”

R4U’s Neil Hargreaves added “At last week’s full council meeting when R4U questioned as to why UDC were trying to claim that the council had made a profit when in fact it had made a loss, the responsible cabinet councillor, who is standing down in May, refused to answer our questions. The UDC leadership has known about the loss for 9 months, so it is clear that the Conservative administration had been seeking to hide the truth of their financial situation in the run up to district council elections.”

R4U’s Neil Hargreaves concluded “The same property company owned by UDC was also insolvent last year and UDC had to issue a formal statement saying it had enough cash to carry on trading. This is not the way a council should be run. It is time for a wholesale change at UDC, with stronger governance over the council’s investments and better transparency.”

Additional Information

Please note that there is another unconnected company in Saffron Walden with a similar name. The skin care & dermatology company Aspire & Co Limited is not related to UDC or UDC’s subsidiary Aspire (CRP) Limited.

Below are links to copies of related documents from Aspire (CRP) Limited, UDC’s property investment subsidiary.

  1. Aspire (CRP) Limited Audited Accounts: This is the Audited Accounts for UDC’s property subsidiary filed with Companies House that shows the loss. They are for the year ending 31 March 2018. Page 8 (page 9 of the PDF) shows the loss of £3,256,000.
  2. Aspire (CRP) Limited Directors Report to UDC Governance Audit and Performance Committee: This is the directors’ report to UDC’s internal audit committee that claims Aspire (CRP) Limited made a profit. On page 3 see “the Council in the year ending 31 March 2018 made a surplus of £1,427,000” which is the opposite of the official Companies House Audited Accounts. On page 3 it says “At the end of the first twelve months the company has retained the sum of £351,323 which the Directors believe is sufficient to enable continued operation.” The words ‘sufficient to enable continued operation’ is the accountants wording used when a company is technically insolvent as Aspire (CRP) Limited was, but has enough cash to carry on. The report, which was issued two months after the Audit Committee had been asked to agree the UDC annual accounts, failed to mention either the £3.3m loss made by Aspire (CRP) Limited, or to specifically say that it was insolvent.

About Residents for Uttlesford