City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Trams Continue their Unabated Waste of Money


By actionman - Posted on 02 August 2011

It scarcely seems possible that at a time when the Edinburgh tram project is under such scrutiny for its profligate spending, that news emerges that the Council, and what remains of Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (tie), that discredited and incompetent arm's length agency for the Council, have splurged some £38 million on buying rail line for the Newhaven section of the scheme which has been cut from the initial programme - indeed there is doubt whether the tram can get even as far as Haymarket with the money left.

Is this just another attempt by the incompetent LibDem leadership in the Council to be able to say, "oh we have spent so much money so far that we have to go on" ?    But this action smack of much more than simple incompetence; it is like a dying animal lashing out in the last stages of death and blindly doing anything to avoid being cornered. In this state we must ask if those responsible for this incompetent and foolhardy action should be sacked forthwith?   We need to have them brought to a court of law for questioning to see who is responsible for such an unbelievable waste of public money;  they must be held to account.

Furthermore no one has made a credible public statement regarding the way in which the City of Edinburgh can have spent so much money on their Charge Cards - almost £400,000 average on all 171 cards. One gets the feeling that not only is the City Council out of control but Sue Bruce and her officers are simply bleeding the city to death.

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I did receive a statement from a council spokesman on Edinburgh City Council's procurement cards after speaking to someone in the press office. The spokesman was initially unaware of the Cabinet Office FOI - the source of the original story picked up by the mainstream media - and said it was incorrect information. However, on learning that it was a Cabinet Office FOI he said he'd look further into it.

There is a large gap between the published FOI figures and ECC's own figures. To begin with, the council says it has "around 150 users of Government Procurement Cards (GPC)" rather than 171 as stated in the FOI.

The Council also says that the total spend on these cards over the last four years totals was £193,000 (2007 - £25K, 2008 - £33K, 2009 - £58K, 2010 - £77K) compared to £millions spent each year according to the FOI.

As I mentioned in my reply to your last blog post, while Government Procurement Cards -look like and feel like credit cards, they are not credit cards:  they do not have any extended credit facility and must be cleared on a monthly basis.

So what about the variance in figures? It's not clear to me (or it would seem the Council) where the Cabinet Office FOI gets its figures.

GPCs are arranged via ECC bankers who are selected using the Government Buying Solutions Framework Agreement for Payment Cards and Associated Services. And I'm told that "other types of payments for supplies and services" are made through these which don't involve the use of any actual procurement/credit cards. So it may be these other types of supplies and services that are  included in the FOI figures (Ive asked the council for more on this).

As Finance Convenor Phil Wheeler says, ECC is a "large and complex" organisation.

With my limited insight into council finances, I'm unable to fill in the gaps.

The comment by edg reveals that no one at Edinburgh City Council appears to be able to explain why, according to the Cabinet Office, who issued the figures,  the city has spent such enormous sum on these procurement cards.   Where then do these figures come from?   Phil Wheeler, the Finance Convenor appears to have simply said that Edinburgh City Council is a "large  and complex" organisation - is this really relevant, as it is difficult to see how Edinburgh City Council could be more complex than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence or Kent County Council!    Possibly the Council Officers and other card holders are trying to raise money  for their pet trams project by maxing out their procurement cards!

Does it come as any surprise to the people of Edinburgh that they top to league for the use of these debit cards and would it surprise the public that Phil Wheeler when asked knew nothing about them.

Local Councillors Dundas and Mowat claim that City of Edinburgh(CEC) only spend a few thousands of pound each year using these cards yet the Cabinet office claim that they regularly spend £11-18m per year.

Is this yet another example of the SNP/LibDem finances "out of control" having wasted £500m on the trams how much more are they wasting on these cards and who has them? The Cabinet Office claim there are 171 of them and CEC claim there are 150. One source of there use is to pay building contractors, could it be that these are the same contractors being investigated in the Emergency Repairs debacle that has hit the City?

Guess who is in charge of that department, yes you have it, it is Dave Anderson our new tram chief executive.

Worrying that CEC and the Cabinet Office are so far apart, would anyone like to take bets on who is right, my odds are 1,000,000 to 1 that it is Edinburgh. 

Phil Wheeler was also the tram convenor before being moved to finance could he be the common denominator of incompetence or will Dave share the slot?