SSDC loses control of development money

The latest audit committee meeting of South Somerset District Council gave some unexpected news. The internal auditors had been looking at the way the council handles money received by developers. For every major development there is supposed to be a contribution towards local infrastructure. That may be a play park, a school or community centre. It depends on the size of the development and the expressed wishes of local people too.

There are two current schemes under which developers can pay money towards. S106 agreements or Community Infrastructure Levies (CIL). In either case, the local authority negotiates with each developer to determine how much will be paid and for what. SSDC runs both schemes. And we should say up front that the auditors found nothing wrong with the way CIL money was handled.

But that was not the case with s106 money. The main things you want as a local authority, is to ensure everyone knows what is going on. That means knowing the money due from developers had been paid. Any extra not needed is returned to developers. Projects supposed to be built with s106 money are actually built. And that where things are not yet finished, how long they will take.

What the auditors found was as follows:

  • There is not a complete and accurate record of all S106 agreements in place although work is being undertaken to rectify.
  • The process to monitor contributions that could be returned to developers is ineffective and the Localities team are not notified when S106 contributions are received. The spreadsheet maintained by the Localities team has not been updated since 2019.
  • No reports are produced for Senior Management or Members on the S106 contributions received and spent.
  • The process for monitoring and managing S106 management and monitoring is currently unclear. There are many different services involved in the process but there is only one Officer in post to monitor and manage both S106 contributions, Community Infrastructure Levy and implement Exacom.

What the auditors have reported on sounds like incompetence. Basic things are not being done. But perhaps the most significant point may be the last one. SSDC has gone through a hugely expensive reorganisation. It was supposed to make the organisation more efficient. Yet the auditors hint that once again we have an example of an organisation cut to the bone. So much so that it is close to being unable to function.

The new system they refer to, Exacom, is supposed to be the fix all for this fiasco. Once the data is loaded up, it is supposed to provide the management information that has been lacking to date. The auditors tell us that “Actions to address the weaknesses should be completed by November”. Let us hope that the 1 member of staff assigned to this task is able to keep all the plates spinning.

7 comments

  • This smacks of incompetence, negligence or worse.

  • The admistration elected in 2019 has suffered, weak leadership and a failure to grip and deal with major issues, roll on Unitary!!

  • Members of the public can now see and comment on the draft accounts but the delays in their production mean that SSDC has missed the audit slot – so the accounts will be late again this year. The ‘Transformation Programme’ led by Parmley and enthusiastically promoted by Pallister and Roundell-Greene (her video seems to have disappeared) and subsequently by Keitch and the rest of the Lib-Dems clearly is not working. What a mess! Why ever do people still vote for them?

  • See Jo Roundell-Greene’s claims for transformation at
    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=South+Somerset+Transformation+you+tube&docid=608042999874408926&mid=13BAC05A28DAC1AE983413BAC05A28DAC1AE9834&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

    Mr Parmley has now departed to ‘transform’ somewhere in New Zealand, just about as far away as he can get.

    It would be funny if it were not such a disaster…

  • What makes me laugh is these clowns thought they could run a Unitary authority. Rather than spin the story to suggest that it was ‘the will of the people’ in an unfair and biased poll, they should think why their business case was rejected and it’s because of their utter incompetence. Failed transformation programme, can’t pick up the phone, can’t collect the bins, irresponsible with public money and now are letting down the communities that s106 money rightly belongs to, SSDC should be ashamed!!

  • I’ve just watched some of the video fronted by Cllr R-G. Why does she keep talking about “customers” when what she really means is “people and businesses in our area who have no other choice than to use our services”. “Customers” normally have a choice of where they can spend their money – as evidenced by (say) Tesco vs Aldi vs Sainsburys vs Lidl.
    And then she goes on to talk about the “brilliant planning department”.

    • Councillor R-G seems to think that if you repeatedly tell people the same lies, they will eventually believe them. Sadly, she was a councillor for many years and some of us in Area North have to live with her ignorant and stupid planning decisions, shared with a number of other members of that Committee. Just be thankful that her candidature at the 2017 General Election ended in failure!

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