Well, that was interesting. Today’s meeting of East Cambridgeshire district council’s Shareholder Committee (the committee which represents the council’s interests in its own ‘East Cambs Trading Company’) was asked to recommend the company’s business plan to the full council – and refused to do so. Company directors were sent back to do some more homework, and a rewritten business plan will come to the next meeting of the Shareholder Committee.
So what went wrong? Well, councillors have been more than a little irked that Palace Green Homes – the company’s house-building arm, responsible for such projects as the Barton Road houses in Ely – decided it wanted to move offices to Fordham, and plans for this were quite advanced before even senior Conservative councillors knew.
But questioning from me and from Conservative councillors today centred on the financial figures given to councillors, particularly for the company’s grounds maintenance operation. The salary bill for this team is expected to increase by almost £100K in the next two years, while its earnings before tax are projected to fall from £131K to less than £50K over the same period. Transport costs are also set to increase, from under £60K to nearly £90K.
I’ve got other concerns too. There are clear conflicts of interest between the council, the company, and the Combined Authority which is lending the company a lot of money – and there are some people on all three. The company is aiming for only 25 per cent of the homes it markets over the next five years to be affordable – that’s less than the requirement the council asks of commercial developers. (That’s partly because so few affordable houses will be generated by the scheme to refurbish the MOD homes at Princess of Wales in Ely). And the company has been given the power to take unlimited loans from Mayor Palmer’s Combined Authority, rubber-stamped by only one named officer and one named councillor.
Finally, the Barton Road scheme included a payment by the company to the council, for an affordable home to be built somewhere else in the district. The money has been paid over, but there is no news about where, or when, the affordable home will be built.
Report by Cllr Lorna Dupre originally published on 11 February 2019 @ https://lornadupre.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/02/11/east-cambs-councillors-refuse-to-endorse-council-trading-company-report/