Part of my real hatred about scrutinising the Tory Capital and Revenue Budgets is the smoke and mirrors in reporting on overspends on original budget estimates.
Officers have got into an unfortunate habit of reporting overspends against increased budgets as opposed to original estimated costs given to the public.
You may be confused
Below are two examples of financial mismanagement which the public may indeed be aware of over the last 0-10 years
Walderslade School: If you look above the budget estimate it stands at £5.51m and to the casual observer it effectively hit this budget target with an 'ambivalent face'. What is never disclosed is the original budget estimate for this project was £3.2m. This project therefore went over original budget estimate by £2.3m but because at some point during the project we voted for an increase it is all ok. Is this really scrutiny? Not a smiley face
Strood Civic Centre: If you look at the above the budget estimate is £800,000 and it received a very 'smiley face'. What is never disclosed is the original budget estimate for this project was £700,000 . Not a smiley face
And lets not start on the biggest example of this which is the Chatham Bus station which went from £5m to £7.3m and still costs are ongoing
The Council - for whatever reason - never reports the original budget estimate. Instead the Tory-led Council goes over budget, votes itself a budget increase on said programme (usually out of Council Tax or reserves) and then scrutinises itself against this raised budget. It then reviews these budget within the context of the said incompetence and awards itself a happy face.
It is utterly infuriating and dishonest politics.
Last week I challenged this type of smoke and mirrors at the Business Overview & Scrutiny Meeting but to no avail.
I wonder why!