Council digs deep at
but this time for money!
Once again, Boston Borough Council is poised to dig deep into its pockets to fund a project, despite telling all and sundry how hard up it is.
Having allocated almost £200,000 from the reserves to fund the Moulder Training Pool deal, followed last week by a call to spend up to £340,000 on solar panels, a new recommendation suggests spending £500,000 to refurbish equipment at Boston Crematorium by the end of next year to meet legal requirements – rather than “privatising” the service.
The proposal is on the agenda in a report by the Chief Executive for tomorrow’s cabinet – which as it always does as it is told, means that agreement is a foregone conclusion.
The recommendation follows a review of various options for the operation and maintenance of the borough’s bereavement services.
This included a “soft market” exercise in June and July to gauge the strength of any interest in the Boston service - against a backdrop requiring major investment – which produced two “bids.”
However, despite the fact that profits this year are only likely to be about £139,000,
The recommendation is that no concession contract be awarded and that the council continues to run the service.
Officers are to be tasked with bringing in further performance improvements as soon as possible, and producing a detailed business plan for the next cabinet meeting at the end of this month.
As has become the norm these days, a considerable proportion of the papers relating to this discussion are what they call “exempt” - which means that we, the riff raff, and local journalists will be ordered out of the room whilst our much more important cabinet members peruse and discuss them.
Students of cabinet business will recall that when the Moulder training pool deal was agreed it was in a secret session.
Disquiet over this was so great that a successful move was made to “call in” that decision – to re-examine it and if necessary refer it back for discussion – on grounds including inadequate consultation before the decision was taken, lack of evidence for the decision and the highly reasonable, but nonetheless unheeded, suggestion that the scrutiny committee and full council should have been consulted.
But such is the committee structure that a Tory majority simply overruled the protest, and signalled the Tory run cabinet to carry on disregarding the opinions of anyone other than themselves.
They have taken this to heart for tomorrow’s meeting with three of the five appendices to the report being kept secret.
These include the minutes of a Joint Scrutiny Committee in August at which an updated report was given to members – who were not asked to make recommendations but allowed to ask about the bid process and rationale. A nod – or rather a finger at the democratic process, perhaps?
Copies of that draft minute are included as an exempt appendix – as are staff comments and management responses and comparisons of the bids.
We don’t need to know anything about this, of course, as it is only our half-a-million-pounds that it being spent.
There are also risks involved – one is breaching the council’s 5% partial VAT exemption limit – although this is likely to be mitigated by leasing the equipment.
See ya later, rent-a-cremator!
The cost of future utility increases will remain with the council - and predictions are for significant price increases in the medium term – and as the crematorium uses gas, all the solar panels in the world aren’t going to be of any help. The most recently published gas bill, for instance was £2,168 - and charges are set to rise by almost 20% about now.
Overall, the report considers the value for money efficiency of the project – and notes that no savings can be found.
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