The Liberal Democrat Cabinet on Bath and North East Somerset Council has been asked to look again at the cost of its revised Bath Transport Package by a Scrutiny Panel of Councillors.
Lib Dem-run Bath and North East Somerset Council came under fire this week at a meeting of the Planning, Transport and Environment Scrutiny Panel for getting its sums wrong over key elements of the Package. The panel voted to ask for a report to be presented at the next public Cabinet meeting with revised costings for the plans.
During questioning by Conservative Councillors it was revealed that the Council had over-budgeted in its costing for the scaled-back Package and that expected funding from FirstBus and Crest Nicholson may no longer be forthcoming. Some of the issues uncovered during the meeting were:
· That despite cutting by half the planned Newbridge Park & Ride extension to just 250 extra spaces, the Council is still budgeting £2 million for 500 additional spaces.
· That despite eliminating the Rapid Transit element and cancelling the East of Bath Park & Ride, the Council is still seeking £3 million from First Bus or another operator for new vehicles. It was admitted that this may no longer be forthcoming.
· That a £1.9 million contribution from Crest Nicholson may not be forthcoming since it specifically relates to the Rapid Transit route.
As a result of the lacklustre budgeting by the Liberal Democrat administration, concerns have been raised that higher costs could fall on local Council Tax payers, above £17.8 million Council contribution currently planned.
Conservative Councillor Malcolm Hanney, who sits on the Scrutiny Panel, said:
“The Council’s Liberal Democrat administration has scaled-back the Transport Package and cut out the most significant elements, yet the cost to local tax payers seems to be spiralling. Initially the Lib Dem Cabinet said the Council’s contribution would be less than £9 million. Then we were told this had to be doubled to nearly £18 million. Now, if funding is not forthcoming from First Bus or Crest Nicholson, the amount the Council has to put in could be well above £20 million.
“It’s extremely worrying that they can’t get their sums right on such an important issue. This will doubtless raise alarm bells at the Department for Transport and could further jeopardise securing Government funding.
“These issues need to be resolved urgently, and the Panel has asked for a detailed report to be presented at the next public Cabinet meeting so that the costs of the package are fully transparent.”