Message from Cllr Sandra Williams, Chair of Audit and Governance

Sandra Williams

 

In 2008 the economy collapsed and we were all faced with years of austerity stretching far into the future. In 2010, the Maghull Town Council LibDem administration indulged in a massive spending spree – expensive refurbishment of the function suite, a complete new roof and installation of some few solar panels. Totally we were told at the time, approximately £500,000 repayable with interest over 25 years. ( As reported in the Champion 8th May 2011)

Not one single penny of this money  went into community projects; it was all spent on the Town Hall. From an independent auditors report it has been confirmed that the governance of this project, in its initial stages, has been truly appalling. 

• First there was no business case or survey to indicate this work was necessary. 
• Repeated requests for the reasons for this work have not been answered. 
• The role of the PM eventually costing the tax payer almost £60,000 was not tendered for nor was a proper contract put into place. 
• The contract for the roof replacement (a major work) was awarded to a company, by which its own admission, had been in financial difficulties since 2008. Basic due diligence like credit checks were not undertaken until it was too late.

Two to three months into the work the company went into voluntary liquidation. At this point, Maghull Town Council or rather the taxpayers (you and I) were in a vary precarious position. Had the company not been able to complete the works, the financial consequences would have been disastrous. 

Thanks to careful and conscientious management by the new labour administration the new roof was finished despite being overrun by some 20 weeks. However, we are left in the position where about £25,000 to the contractor is being retained but still owing, there is no insulation for this apparent ‘green’ project. A figure of £34,000 in the original estimate was withdrawn (a mystery bearing in mind the pretence that this was  a green project, there is no safe access to the roof space and no fire doors. This is not a decision that I am happy with and if these outstanding items are paid (and some have to be for Health & Safety reasons) the project is over budget.

The money from this project was borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board and the application was signed immediately after a full council meeting of Lib Dems on the eve of the election on May 5th. I still do not understand why this was not delayed until after the election– why was it rushed through?

This project in its entirety is the responsibility of the previous Lib Dem administration. It was unnecessary work at an exorbitant cost and due to incompetent governance in the early stages also very high risk. The governance was disgraceful and those responsible are Lib Dem councillors who have presided over Maghull Town Council for 20 years. As custodians of the public purse they have shown total disregard of the management of taxpayers money. As Chair of Audit and Governance I am deeply shocked and urge Councillor Tony Robertson, as the then leader of the council, to search his conscience and give careful thought to his position as an elected councillor on this council.

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