The reports to the Cabinet meeting on Thursday 16th June 2016 contain amongst the various papers a report called the Capital Out Turn Report 2015/16 which shows how taxpayers money has been spent on “Capital” projects. These projects include a number of transport projects such as the City Link Road and the Southern Link Road (SLR).
Here for Hereford has received independent confirmation that to the end of March 2016, the Southern Link Road has cost taxpayers at least £2.146 million. This sum is corroborated by documentation agreed by Herefordshire Council’s own Head of Infrastructure Delivery.
The budget agreed for the Southern Link Road for the period to the end of 2015/16 was just £1 million. The Council therefore appears to have overspent on this road project by £1.146 million. This is pretty poor management of costs, but it is possible there are reasonable explanations as to why there might have been such an over run on the expense of this road.
The more worrying fact is that despite the Council having spent £2.146 million on the Southern Link Road up to 31st March 2016, the Capital Out Turn Report to Cabinet is only showing a spend of £1.712 million to date. That means costs of over £400,000 on the Southern Link Road have not been reported to Councillors. Why not?
If Herefordshire Council is unable to correctly budget and manage the costs of a project like the Southern Link Road, and has had problems over accounting for the costs of the City Link Road as well, does this Council have the financial controls and management in place to control the budget and costs of a highly engineered, capital road project, spanning a highly sensitive European SAC, over 6 times the current “anticipated” cost of the Southern Link Road?
If Herefordshire Council cannot explain the discrepancies on the Southern Link Road costs to date, should they be allowed to spend £600,000 for developing a case for the Western Relief Road?
Perhaps a period of stability in the financial department might be time and money better spent, focusing on improving the budget control and accounting, and improving existing road infrastructure and local services which local taxpayers expect to be delivered by their Council officers.