LETTER: Still waiting for a business case

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Referring to the article on page 14 last week regarding so called improvements to Horsham town, residents are still waiting for a business case for the so-called West Street ‘improvements’, where taxpayers’ money seems to have been spent against an arbitrary timescale, without tangible payback criteria.

Apparently well over £600,000 of direct costs has been spent on that scheme, since WSCC offered £500,000 to HDC, to improve business and employment prospects – to which HDC then contributed £100,000.

HDC manpower and overhead costs could well take the total to over £750,000 and the leader should advise the total expenditure with an updated business case, in his next column. Saying that the money would have gone somewhere else, if HDC had not taken it, is unlikely to satisfy taxpayers.

We should be told a) what options other than West Street were evaluated, b) what were their relative rates of return, c) why traders did not contribute, d) what the taxpayer is supposed to have gained, e) what maintenance costs are now being incurred, due to the project and f) what will be the final capital cost, including the cost of project management.

Since low risk returns on capital of around five or six per cent are obtainable, why should taxpayers accept anything less? On that basis, the direct cost alone could equate to a lost opportunity cost of around £35,000 pa.

If HDC can’t match such returns then taxpayers should be allowed to keep more of their money (ie through tax reductions) because they are more likely than local authorities to drive innovation and improved productivity.

With one of the highest percentage deficits in the EU and with further reductions in council funding, HDC must surely get the biggest bang for every buck, while keeping waste to a minimum.

Let us understand from the leader, how he has obtained good value for money.

NEIL WHITEAR

Chairman, UKIP Horsham Branch, Timber Mill, Southwater