Sunday, 14 June 2015

Concerns about transparency and conflicts of interest

Note to Adam Paynter, Portfolio Holder for Finance

We shall be meeting on Friday at the Resources Portfolio Advisory Committee (PAC) to give you, as the Portfolio holder, the benefit of our advice on finance and resourcing issues for the Council.

This is a somewhat ludicrous process as we have no resource to help us to advise you but depend on our wits alone.

So, I apologise in advance if the answers to any of these questions I raise should be obvious to me but I would like answers on Friday please:

1. Following on from the concerns I expressed at the Resources PAC last December and in Full Council in February and my recent request to an officer for information on the Council' s investments, I would like a full understanding of why the Council has long term borrowings of £633m (of which £551m are over 40 years) (average rate of interest 4.45%) and investments of £508m (average investment return 1.17%) of which £354m are short term.

This looks like a massive bet on interest rates that has gone wrong, although you sought to reassure me to the contrary in February.

I believe the PAC should have a full understanding of what is going on. The slides from the meeting last December referred to £393m of the long term borrowings as 'LOBOs'. I received some details on these from an officer but I am concerned to know more. As we have £393m it is surprising that they are not explained in any Council documents.

2. I would like to know why there was no consultation with the Committee on the Council's response (deadline last Friday) to the Government's Consultation on a Reform of Business Rates. This has profound implications for the finances of the Council and the economy of Cornwall. The draft response, which I obtained on Thursday but too late to input, also seems to run counter to the Council's 'Case for Cornwall'. The Leader specifically told us that devolution of business rates would not form part of it.

3. Particularly in the light of the recent judicial review decision which was extremely critical of the Council's decision to approve a wind turbine and the clear conflicts of interest for the Council as a whole, please publish full details of the business rates that the Council retains from renewable energy installations and explain how these are computed.

Many thanks.
Fiona Ferguson

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