Welwyn Hatfield Council fork out £431k to cover former contractor

PUBLISHED: 11:52 18 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:52 18 November 2016

Resources committee member Steve Roberts said he was previously unaware of the payment

Resources committee member Steve Roberts said he was previously unaware of the payment

Archant

Welwyn Hatfield Council has shelled out more than £430,000 to cover a former contractor's pension deficit.

Gosling Sports Trust, which previously ran Welwyn Garden City’s Gosling Sports Park in Stanborough Road, had a shortfall of £431k when it was taken over by Greenwich Leisure Ltd in June.

It has emerged that in 1983, the council agreed to be a guarantor for the trust, and forked out the money in September.

However, resources committee member, councillor Steve Roberts, said he was previously unaware of the agreement, or that the payment had been made.

“This seems to have come totally out of the blue,” he said. “I know the agreement was made in 1983, which is a long time ago, but I feel when you have that sort of commitment it just seems to me a strange way to go about it.

“People haven’t done their homework.”

Opposition leader Kieran Thorpe, who was also unaware of the payment, said: “While very little about this council’s financial mismanagement surprises me anymore, this is a staggering amount of money to suddenly come out of the blue.

“It is unbelievable that nearly half-a-million pounds can go out of the council without there being a discussion involving all elected representatives.”

A council spokeswoman said: “This was a long-standing agreement for the council to honour, and a committee or council decision was not needed.

“When we became aware a payment was required, it was highlighted at the earliest opportunity in our financial monitoring reports, seen by both the resources scrutiny committee and the council’s cabinet.”

She also confirmed the council has similar guarantor obligations with Mears, Finesse, Serco, CP Plus Ltd, Sopra Steria, Hayward Services and the housing trust.

The potential cost to the taxpayer is unclear, as it would depend on variables such as interest rates and wages.

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