The Corporate Director Finance,
Governance and Property introduced the report and stated that this
report was brought before the Committee every year and outlined the
new schemes that would be included in the capital programme, and
formed part of the budget setting in February. He stated that due
to the Council’s financial position the capital programme did
not include as many schemes as in previous years, as the majority
of capital schemes required lots of staff and resources to deliver,
which would be reduced due to a reduction in capacity and vacant
post staff freezes. The Corporate Director of Finance, Governance
and Property outlined the two aspects of the capital programme
which were: smaller schemes outlined in 4.2 of the report which
were divided into the digital, operational, and property pots; and
larger schemes which were included at appendix 2.
The Chair questioned the affordability of some of the projects, and asked how budgets were going to be managed. The Corporate Director of Finance, Governance and Property replied that over the past year the Council had worked hard to improve its project management capabilities, including increased senior management involvement, and new team members who had project management experience. He explained that the Project Board met monthly and was chaired by the Chief Executive to monitor delivery, timescales, and budgets of ongoing projects. He explained that there were always challenges on public sector budgets due to project cost overruns and delays, but controls were now in place to improve project management.
Councillor Ralph questioned the Stanford-le-Hope Interchange project, and asked if the Council had claimed back funds from DP World. He felt it was good to see third party investment in these schemes, and urged the Council to claim back any necessary monies. The Corporate Director of Finance, Governance and Property replied that the Council claimed as much back as possible on these schemes, and would confirm in writing if DP World funds had been claimed. Councillor Rice then queried the spend of £9million on consultants for the Stanford-le-Hope Interchange project. He also questioned overspend on the A13 widening project, and potential funding for the A13 East Facing Access scheme. The Corporate Director of Finance, Governance and Property stated that he did not recognise the figure of £9million spent on consultants, but would come back to the Committee with a written reply and brief update on the position. He stated that the Council were contractually obliged to pay for the A13 widening scheme, and the team were working hard to mitigate the £30million overspend, including through monthly claims to Kier. He added that the team were also working to increase the contributions from third parties, including SELEP and the Highways Agency. He stated that as a last resort the Council could use prudential borrowing, but would use capital receipts before then. He explained that the Council were currently undertaking feasibility studies regarding the A13 East Facing Access Scheme, but explained that government grants could be used to cover this cost. He explained that as it was a large scheme, there was a risk of costs overrunning, which the Council would analyse before any decision was made.
The Chair questioned the impact that COVID had had on the current capital programme. The Corporate Director of Finance, Governance and Property replied that COVID had not yet impacted the capital programme, other than the A13. He added that COVID had actually improved some aspects, such as the M25 junctions 31 improvements, which had been undertaken more quickly than expected due to the decreased levels of traffic.
RESOLVED: That the Committee:
1. Commented on the specific proposals set out in the report.