Sunday, 15 November 2009

Trams - the figures

I was in the supermarket in the late afternoon, enjoying myself reading labels and snorting at prices when a shopping trolley hove into view containing a small child who was complaining about his imprisonment. Arms aloft, he was repeating one word "Free! Free!" An inspirational wee fella, I thought.

Anyway, while everyone's attention was focused on some small electoral contest somewhere over in the west, here in the nation's capital there was a meeting - don't tell anyone - that happened to have a report or two in front of it about that chaos theory experiment that's going on in Edinburgh, the one that's got that that funny codename; Tram.

Ready? Good...

The Audit Committee of the Council had a look at the audited accounts wherein they will have read (if, indeed, they were so brave) the foreword from the Director of Finance who, strangely, didn't do a Private Frazer, but did say:
Capital Expenditure for the year totalled £391.900m, as shown on page 37 of the Statement of Accounts. Of this amount ... £241.953m was spent on tram works, roads and other infrastructure.

Page 37 actually tells you very little about trams (although it does point out that professional fees for capital projects totalled £24million ....)

Page 34, though, shows that the payments of capital funding to TIE in the year to April 2009 totalled £87.086 million and the year before £68.333 million (2007-08).

That's very interesting because the money claimed from the Scottish Government for the Tram project totalled £69.919 million in the year 2007-08 (all paid in the one month) and £82.231 million for part of the later year. So what? Well, the agreement between the Scottish Government and Edinburgh Council is for parallel funding (it's referred to in that answer to the Parliamentary Question). The Government's funding is capped at £500 million but pays only 91.7% of each bill - in other words, if TIE has a bill for £100 the Government should pay £91.70 and the Council should cough up £8.30.

If the Council had been paying its share of the bills, the capital investment should have been £76.248 million and £89.674 million. Where's that £10.503 million gone? Come to think of it, why was more claimed than paid in one of those years? The agreement has quite clearly been breached. What happens now?

There's more, though, if you go to page 46 of the Council's accounts you'll find TIE's turnover - £58.673 million in the year that £69.919 million was claimed from the Scottish Government and £68.333 million was handed over to TIE - there's more than £11 million missing somewhere, someone had better check down the back of the sofa.

Ah, but in the year just gone TIE had a turnover of £127.201 million and it only got £87.086 million in tram payments. Its website suggests it's only got the tram project on the go just now - did someone find £40 million down the back of the sofa?

On page 16 of the Auditor's report it's stated that £138 million was spent on the tram in the year, £120 million from the Scottish Government. Those figures don't appear in the Council's accounts - when are we going to get some honesty about the state of the tram project? Page 29 of that report indicates that the tram project now poses enough of a threat to the running of Edinburgh Council to appear on the Corporate Risk Register.

No wonder the Greens think a single tramline is a waste of money.

Some other wee details, though - the Council is now £1.1bn in debt and its PPP commitments now total £1.147 bn.

Nothing there to worry about, is there?

Mind how you go!

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