GREENHAM Parish Council has denied it breached its own financial regulations by appointing a project manager to oversee the completion of the troubled Greenham Control Tower project.
Concerns had been raised after the council entered into a contract with property asset management company Place Partnership to complete the conversion of the Cold War control tower into a visitor centre and café without having secured the necessary funding.
However, speaking at a meeting of the full council last week, former clerk David Fowler told members that the regulations had not been breached owing to the ‘phasing’ of the work to be carried out.
He said: “My interpretation is it’s not pertaining to the completion of the whole project.
“It’s just ensuring you, as a council, don’t put contracts in place that you can’t afford or pay for.”
The clause referred to – Clause 4.6, from the parish’s own financial orders – states: “No expenditure shall be authorised in relation to any capital project and no contract entered into or tender accepted involving capital expenditure unless the council is satisfied that the necessary funds are available and the requisite borrowing approval has been obtained (if required).”
Mr Fowler explained that the first phase of the work, which would be covered by the £60,000 remaining in the council’s control tower coffers, would include a detailed costing of the remaining work to be done.
Councillors were told that, because the cost of the first phase of the work is covered, then no financial regulations had been breached.
It is not the first time concerns over the council’s adherence to financial regulations have been raised.
In December 2015 work on the control tower ground to a halt after a series of unexpected costs again put the project in danger of breaching Clause 4.6.
Speaking at the time, acting clerk Heather Westbrook said: “We haven’t breached the clause, there is the potential to breach it.
“We need to be careful as we are getting closer to opening.
“We are being cautious. We have spent a huge amount on the control tower.”
After the latest concerns were raised, control tower committee chairman Jon Gage told the Newbury Weekly News he was confident the council was not in breach of any of the regulations.
He also explained that the costing done by the project manager would form part of the £100,000 loan application needed to complete the project.
“We have got £60,000 in the bank that covers the cost of the contract with the project manager several times over,” he said.
“The work in phase one is a detailed costing for the outstanding works and once that has been done we’ll be applying to the Public Works Loan Board for the loan.
“We will have some funds left in our account before we get the loan and it’s always been discussed that, rather than the project stop, we might look at carrying on with some small pieces of work.”
He added: “We will not enter into any work that we don’t have the funds for.”
Earlier this year the council declared it would provide £20,000 from this year’s budget to the control tower, while also allocating £41,000 of its reserves to the scheme.
It is expected that costs will have risen to more than £850,000 by the time the project is completed.
Work on converting the iconic former airbase control tower into a café and visitor centre is hoped to be complete by the end of the year.