Friday, September 28, 2007

Blogsclusive: Tory Council Caught Rigging Poll to Validate Land Transfer of Dubious Value for Money?

Two stories for the price of one.

FIRST STORY: Tory Guildford Council are say the Surrey Advertiser planning to sell off the family silver for a few bob a week. Well alright then, I am exaggerating the thinness of the deal slightly ... more like £45 a week according to the paper's calculations, for the site of a luxury hotel with 180 bedrooms plus various ancillary licenced and other retail.

If their sums are correct - see update below - the lease cost per room computes to 25p a week or less than four pence per night.

Some consultants, Colliers CRE, who appear to be acting for the developer as well as advising the Council, appear to be saying this represents a £2.2 million payment for the 999-year lease the Tories wish to give the developer. Though, hold on, if it were paid on a drip as the paper imply that won't be at today's prices will it?

Under a section 106 "planning gain" agreement, the Council will also pocket around £150,000 from the developers to pay for relocating the toilets currently in the civic hall car park as well improvements to the CCTV cameras and road network in the area.

So far, so worrying for the people of Guildford whose assets might appear to be being stripped. But hey, on the face of it they don't seem too unhappy voting 6-4 against the idea that the people are losing out. Which brings us to ...

STORY TWO. "AN investigation is being carried out by Guildford Borough Council into a vote-rigging scam", report the Surrey Advertiser. That paper, in common with many others, runs reader polls on their stories and issues of the day. And like most of these polls - which have the statistical status of "for fun" even if they are not abused - each reader is supposed to only vote once. Just like an election.

Guildford Tories don't seem to accept this constraint.

They are of a more Ruritanian "Vote Early Vote Often" frame of mind when there is a questionable deal to protect. When the paper spotted the abuse and the poll was suspended it looked like this (above right).

One Town hall computer registered 14 votes - requiring some deliberate, expert and repeated cookie clearing - and another computer somewhere in the South East, not using the Council's network, slammed in 91 more votes. All these against the rather persuasive idea that this was a bad deal for the people. Four pence a night per room in a luxury hotel? Someone's having a laugh.

From some interested party's lap top perhaps? Again repeatedly, but rather clumsily, tricking the server that they had not voted.

Perhaps the council should find an independent internet consultant to carry out the investigation? Wouldn't want anyone to think they'd fiddled that too.

Perhaps they should also get someone in to scrutinise the land transfer for value for money just one more time? Just in case the developers' friends have missed a nought or two off the valuation.

UPDATE 18:55PM: Although the Surrey Advertiser story is unclear on this LOL believe there is a £2.2 million capital receipt and that the journalist has roughly divided this by 999 and then 12 to get an approximate value of £200 per month. In reality £2.2 million in a high interest account at 5% would earn £110,000 a year or a similar amount would be saved on borrowings.

So this is a truer valuation of the deal for the people of Guildford. It is also unclear the proportion of the finished development's value relies on the specific use of the former council land or its "marriage value". Have slightly amended the above.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would be a lot easier to follow your opening paragraph if you dropped a few commas in, here or there.