Conference protest, Stockton cuts cabinet, Coventry sells arena stake…

Written on:October 17, 2014
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Council attendance at conference sparks protest
Protestors harangued developers and council representatives attending the Mipim real estate conference in Olympia this week forcing police to “lockdown” the venue, according to the Guardian.  The paper quoted one protestor outside the venue saying the conference was an event where “councils sell off public land behind closed doors.”Boris Johnson spoke at the conference describing London as the “property capital of the world” but added there was a “deep and understandable sense of social injustice” among its residents over house prices. He said the solution was to build “hundreds of thousands” of homes. He said the capital was on target to build 100,000 new homes over the term of his mayoralty. Construction was possible, he said, through investment in transport infrastructure, including the Northern Line extension through Battersea financed by the first TIF – tax increment financing – to be used in London. “That is a great innovation that obviously we hope to be replicating elsewhere,” he added. TIFs used futures gains in taxes from a zoned area to finance development.

The Mipim webite describes the conference as “the first UK property trade show gathering all professionals looking to close deals in the UK property market: investors, developers, local authorities, occupiers, hotel groups, agents and business service providers.”

Stockton downsizes cabinet to cut costs
Cabinet posts are to be cut at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council in a bid to make savings. A statement from the authority also reveals it is to cut the number of scrutiny committee meetings in a further effort to economise. Cabinet portfolios are to be reduced from nine to seven, making a saving of £24,120 a year, while the scrutiny meeting will be shaved from seven to five gatherings to save £20,100. The moves come as part of budget plans for 2015/16. Council leader Bob Cook, said at a time when budgets were under pressure it was right to “look at the money which is being spent on special responsibility allowances.”

Bedford steps up compulsory purchase of vacant properties
The “blight” of empty homes in Bedford is to be confronted with a £3m fund to compulsory purchase abandoned properties. The money is to be spent by Bedford Borough Council over the next four years in a bid to put homes back into use. Cllr Colleen Atkins said: “An empty property is a wasted property and has a negative impact on the environment and local community when it could be providing a much-needed home for a local person or family.” As much as 80% of empty property owners still live in the borough, according to the council. Bedford recently completed a compulsory purchase order for a property that had stood empty for 14 years.

Coventry sells off stake in football ground
Coventry City Council has cashed in on its ownership of the Ricoh stadium by selling its share in the business to Premiership rugby club Wasps. The former London club will play its first game at the ground in December after acquiring a 50% stake in Arena Coventry Ltd, the company that owns the Ricoh, from the city. A statement from the council said the deal ensures that it “makes a return” on its original £13.7m investment. The deal also guarantees Coventry City Football Club’s continuing tenancy at the ground. Neither Wasps nor the council revealed the value of the arena transaction though at the beginning of October The Telegraph and local paper The Coventry Telegraph speculated it would be for a 90% stake costed at £30m.

Civica wins Coventry ‘Revs & Bens’ contract
Civica has won a three-year deal to manage third party software systems for Coventry City Council winning the work from incumbents Capita. The contract includes managing Capita’s revenues and benefits software for the council as well as document management systems from Northgate Public Services. Tim Savill, head of revenues and benefits at Coventry, said the decision was the right one at a time when the authority was facing “some challenging changes”.

Epping sets aside £1m for land development
A war chest of £1m has been earmarked by Epping Forest District Council to buy land for development as a new town square including business premises, cinema and new homes. The decision is reported by the Epping Forest Guardian following a cabinet meeting on Monday 6 October, which reports the land would be acquired from Essex County Council. Minutes of the meeting show the Epping cabinet agreed to acquire the site in return for land elsewhere and a balance in cash. A supplementary capital estimate of £1m will be recommended to full council for approval.

Ask the Auditor: Schools, subsidiaries, associates & JVs

Written on:October 16, 2014

The CIPFA/LASAAC Code of Practice on local authority accounting for 2014/15 includes some important changes from previous years. In our regular feature, Ask The Auditor, Graham Liddell from Grant Thornton UK LLP discusses new accounting requirements for schools, subsidiaries, associates and joint ventures and the practical implications for local authorities. To ask Graham a technical query, email editor@room151.co.uk The 2014/15 Code brings in two big changes: the Code now requires…

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Q&A with Jill Davys

Written on:October 15, 2014

Jill Davys is head of financial services at the London Borough of Hackney and is involved in a number of national frameworks for LGPS administering authorities and the London LGPS CIV. Room151: What’s happening with the LGPS frameworks and how do they work? Jill Davys: So far we’ve set up national frameworks for LGPS funds to access investment consultancy, actuarial and custody services and we’re currently working on another to…

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Barnett formula, LGPS reform and generating revenue

Written on:October 15, 2014

In a change to James’ regular markets briefing, we asked CCLA’s chief investment officer to reflect on some of the challenges facing local authorities today. R151: The Scottish referendum had generated much discussion about local authority finance. Where do you think it all leaves the Barnett formula? JB: In the heat of the debate on Scottish independence, leaders of the main UK political parties committed to sharing “resources equitably across all…

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Is a flight to bonds on the cards?

Written on:October 9, 2014

At Room151’s recent conference for local authority treasurers, 32% of the audience said they were likely to ‘significantly increase their allocations’ to corporate bonds over the coming year. That was higher than both money market funds (with a 16% increase) and other local authorities (28%). As a provider of Sterling denominated, short-term bond funds, the news was of course welcome. But what’s the story behind the number? Firstly, I would…

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£5bn in hidden underperformance from alternatives in LGPS revealed

Written on:October 9, 2014

Henrik Pedersen is managing partner of Clerus who have this week published a paper on alternative investment performance in the LGPS. Alternative assets such as hedge funds and Diversified Growth Funds (DGFs) are typically promoted by investment consultants as a vehicle to achieve equity-like returns, but with only a proportion of the risk. However, according to Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) annual reports and investment principles issued over the last…

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Boris on LGPS, LPFA equities move, Angus audit “waste of money”, Dorset partnership

Written on:October 9, 2014

Boris enters LGPS debate London mayor Boris Johnson has reignited debate over the Local Government Pension Scheme by calling for wholesale merger of local authority and public sector funds. Using his column in The Telegraph on Sunday, he claimed bringing all funds together would create an investment pool of hundreds of billions of pounds and “suddenly we would be able to direct those vast UK assets to the support of…

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From Capital of Culture to capital strategy

Written on:October 8, 2014

Sir Paul McCartney’s performance in front of 40,000 fans at Anfield stadium in June 2008 was perhaps the zenith of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture. The year-long event was not cheap, with Liverpool City Council contributing £75m towards the £130m budget of the organising body, Liverpool Culture Company. But it undoubtedly played a key part in helping cast off the city’s bleak image as a victim of social…

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Q&A with Paul Naylor

Written on:October 6, 2014

Ashford Borough Council is using the town’s significant growth as a tool to help it cope with cuts in government funding. Paul Naylor, deputy chief executive at the authority, spoke to Room151 about the strategy. Room151:Tell us a little about Ashford’s growth Paul Naylor:  Since the 1960s successive governments have earmarked Ashford for expansion and the town is still growing and will continue to grow for a good few years. I…

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Scottish voter tax, LGA audit company, Birmingham/Capita payments, Somerset JV debt…

Written on:October 2, 2014

New Scottish voters chased for arrears Scottish local authorities are chasing voters who registered to vote in the Scottish independence referendum for unpaid council tax. The vote saw a rush of registrations ahead of the poll, and both Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh councils have announced plans to comb the data to find people who have been avoiding local taxes. The number of citizens registered following the vote now stands at 4.2…

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