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Thursday, 19 April 2018

UDPATED (21st April 2018): Scandal of MORE MILLIONS for Southampton's Arts Complex / Studio 144

The Arts Complex robbed millions from basic Council services
WE BROKE THIS SCANDAL FOR SOUTHAMPTON RESIDENTS - YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW YOUR MONEY IS BEING SPENT

It has now been covered by the BBC in their article here. And the Daily Echo front page yesterday (20th April) and online here.

WHY DID LABOUR, LIB DEM AND TORY COUNCILLORS SPEND YOUR MONEY ON ARTS INSTEAD OF BASIC SERVICES LIKE ROADS, PAVEMENTS, TOWER BLOCK SAFETY, BINS AND CARE?

We've been calling it Labour's Highway Robbery. But it isn't just Labour's Highway Robbery. They were all at it. The other London parties supported more millions for the Arts Complex. And then more millions. While basic services were cut.


Southampton Independents
Councillor Andrew Pope

Southampton Independents didn't support the extra millions and then the extra millions. Instead, we questioned their profligate spending for years. We dug and dug. They tried to stop us.

Councillor Pope says:

"Who is guilty for this outrage? Look at the photo below. They are putting their hands up. ALL Labour councillors. ALL Tory councillors. They put their hands up at the wrong times to throw good money after bad. This project should have been halted earlier, when it was clear it was going to be a disaster. Many opportunities to do so were missed by Labour and Tory councillors. They lacked the leadership to make the right decisions with YOUR money."

Who's Guilty? Hands up! Labour or Tory same old story.

We told them then and we told you then that it was wrong. The Arts Complex is a scandal of epic proportions. But Southampton Labour councillors have tried to cover it up. They have tried to hype it. They have tried to hide it.

But now the Labour Council's own public document, an Internal Audit report, confirms what we have been telling you all along for years, but which Labour has tried to bury.

DOUBLE the original budget.

FIVE YEARS late!

Don't just take our word on it. From the Executive Summary of the Audit:



The text reads (emphasis added):

"The Studio 144 or Southampton's New Art Complex (SNAC) capital project has been on-going since 2000 following successful funding from the Art Council of £5m. In partnership with other bodies, such as John Hansard Gallery and City Eye, the project was developed to create a multi-use building funded by a variety of schemes such as grants, donations and capital funding. The initial projected cost was determined as between £10-15m, however as at September 2017, this has increased by £16.5m to an approximate cost of £30m. It has also experienced numerous delays, with an original completion date of 2012 and following various revised completion dates is due to be completed in October 2017."

The report is not explicit enough about the capital funding. This is public money. This is Council money. If it was funded by private money, or fully by donations, we probably would not have minded so much. But this is YOUR money. PUBLIC MONEY.

And Labour and Tory councillors did not just rob money from the roads... Oh no...

As we have shown on this website by quoting from the minutes of Council meetings, right from the start, MILLIONS OF POUNDS WERE ROBBED from other budgets that could have been spent on the basics that residents want sorted: our roads, on our pavements, on our bin collections, on our care centres.

Labour's bin cuts have caused chaos

Southampton's roads are a disgrace
But good for rubber ducks!

Instead of spending money on the right priorities, the basics, Labour and Tory councillors repeatedly agreed to spend the money on "arts" instead. The budget kept building and building. WHY?

For years, Southampton Independents has worked extremely hard to expose the scandal of the taxpayer millions spent on the "Arts Complex" or Studio 144 as the Labour Council has been trying to re-badge it. Perhaps they want to "re-brand" to distract away from the scandalous failure to control this project and failure to cancel it when they should have. Instead, they threw good money after bad.

We put the scandal on this website.

We put the scandal in the Daily Echo and now on the BBC.

We put the scandal on our Facebook page.

We put the issues on tens of thousands of leaflets that our volunteers pay for and deliver.

We kept on digging. We put pressure on councillors, on the Southampton Cultural Development Trust, on officers of the Council. We were not getting the right answers.

So we tried harder to expose this scandal, with Councillor Pope asking the Chief Financial Officer to urgently review it. Cllr Pope is asking for more answers right now.

And now we learn that even more millions of pounds of taxpayer money are at risk, as shown in the Internal Audit report. And in the Daily Echo and on the BBC.

Labour councillors like current Cabinet Member for "arts" Satvir Kaur tried to block us from finding out by evading us and our questions.

Some senior officers were unhelpful in helping us to uncover the truth. The Council has tried to stop us from finding out the truth. They are still hiding behind "confidentiality". This disastrous project has been totally mishandled by the current Labour Administration - but they were backed by the supposed "opposition" Tory councillors! Labour or Tory, same old story.

Denise Wyatt, Leader of Southampton Independents who has worked in many councils over three decades and is an expert in Governance of Local Government, says:

Denise Wyatt, Leader of Southampton Independents
"We could have joined them. But we are Southampton Independents. We are different. We are here for Southampton residents. And we don't give up easily. We continued our campaign to expose the Arts Complex outrage. And we kept on digging to expose this Labour and Tory disaster. Thank you to the Daily Echo and the BBC for helping us."


Why did we do it? Because it's important.

And because residents agreed with us. Residents that pay their taxes have a right to know how their taxes are spent. Residents demand answers, so we are trying to get them.

But Labour and Tory councillors continued to spend millions of pounds on the wrong priorities.

99% of residents tell us that this failing Council has got the wrong priorities.

Residents say that the Council should get the basics right first. Then arts can be considered.

BUT NOT BEFORE THE BASICS ARE RIGHT.

Are the basics right? No, residents say.

No, the roads are dangerous.

No, the pavements are dangerous.

No, Woodside Lodge, Brownhill House and Kentish Road care centres should NOT have been closed.

No, Labour's broken bins promises were wrong. Residents wanted to keep weekly bin collections. Labour promised to on their leaflets in 2014. But they broke their promise and all Labour councillors voted for fortnightly bin collections.

LABOUR AND TORY COUNCILLORS MUST PAY THE PRICE FOR THIS SCANDAL.

They must explain. Ask them. Here is the mailing list. Email them and ask them why they voted for this outrage?


The Labour Leader of the Council Councillor Simon Letts told the Daily Echo a long time ago, as shown on this website when Denise Wyatt challenged him, that the Arts Complex was "paid for".

Then more millions were needed. Then more. And now more. He must explain. We asked for a formal investigation by the Head of Legal at the Council. It was not properly investigated. Now more millions are at stake, this investigation into Councillor Letts must be re-opened (* see UPDATE 21st April 2018 below).

From the Audit (emphasis added):

"Stage 5 - Project Close
The project is yet to be formally completed and there are residual issues relating to the Independent Quantity Surveyors (QS) report and outstanding claims with the Contract Administrator. At the time of the last QS Report (July 2017) there was a potential for an additional £4.4m to be added to the 'fit out' contractual sum. This figure will likely fluctuate once the Contract Administrator makes a decision on the claims made against the Authority by the contractor."

IN addition, ALL Labour councillors that voted for the extra millions must explain. ALL Tory councillors must also explain.

Our Southampton Independents Councillor Andrew Pope did not vote for these extra millions. Instead, he wants answers on this incorrect spending of millions of pounds of public money. And Cllr Pope wants those responsible for this scandal to be held to account.

We ask the local media to ask the questions: the Daily Echo, BBC, Wave 105, and ITV. We have sent the Internal Audit report to them, having confirmed with the Council that it is a public document.

We hope the media will hold Labour and Tory councillors to account for public funds that they spent incorrectly.

Southampton Independents will continue to lead residents and to inform Southampton residents about this scandal. That is what independents do - act on the issues that matter to residents.

ON 3RD MAY, VOTE LABOUR AND TORY COUNCILLORS OUT ON 3RD MAY AND VOTE SOUTHAMPTON INDEPENDENTS COUNCILLORS IN.

Your Council Candidates are Denise Wyatt in Redbridge ward and Ed Edworthy in Millbrook ward.

Denise Wyatt
and
Ed Edworthy

* UPDATE (21st April 2018): In a meeting on 20th April between Southampton Independents Councillor Pope, Denise Wyatt and the Head of Legal at Southampton City Council, he refused to re-open the investigation into Councillor Letts.

He also refused to re-open the investigations into Labour Councillor Mike Denness, who is a planning consultant and Chair of the City's Planning Committee. Councillor Mike Denness was repeatedly voted in as Chair by Labour councillors. Ask Labour councillors why they think this is right, because any resident we have spoken to says it is wrong.

The Head of Legal also refused to answer questions from Councillor Andrew Pope and Denise Wyatt. These questions included why he chose the investigator Meic Sullivan-Gould, who had been questioned in an investigation by PWC into "crony culture" at Tower Hamlets. Mr Sullivan-Gould left following the investigation, as reported by the Guardian. Why was Mr Sullivan-Gould appointed by the Head of Legal? We still don't have answers.

The Head of Legal also failed to explain why the investigations were not carried out properly. For example, Councillor Pope lodged a substantial Complaint against Councillor Denness, with clear allegations and substantial evidence. Yet Mr Sullivan-Gould attempted to rewrite the allegations in the Complaint, and showed no sign of looking at the evidence. We have gone to the Local Government Ombudsman and the former Chief Executive Dawn Baxendale. Ms Baxendale took no action.

Councillor Pope says:

"The Head of Legal stormed out of the meeting with us, like a petulant teenager, having failed to account for his actions and lack of actions. With highly-paid officers behaving like this, it may explain the poor performance of Southampton City Council."

You need to know that this is Southampton City Council under a Labour Administration. They don't want to account for their failures to you and our City.

Make them pay on 3rd May. Vote Southampton Independents Putting You First to get councillors who stand up for you.



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