Tag: Swindon

It’s all in the name – or not

Two Thamesdown buses
Two recent variants of Thamesdown bus livery
Thamesdown Transport have asked for opinions on their company name. It’s claimed they are only asking because people keep on asking them what will happen to the brand name. But it is very unusual for companies to spend money asking their customers about changes they genuinely have no plans to make. ‘Go South Coast’ — the part of Go Ahead Group that recently bought Thamesdown Transport from Swindon Borough Council — in 2012 rebranded their “Wilts & Dorset” services to “Salisbury Reds” in Wiltshire and “More Bus” in Dorset. Another Go Ahead subsidiary operates buses in South Oxfordshire using “Thames Travel” branding with a very similar colour scheme to Thamesdown. So what’s in the name of a bus company, and does it matter?

The original Thamesdown Transport livery
The survey explains the origin of the Thamesdown name (it was the name used between 1974 and 1997 for the council formed when Highworth Rural District Council and the former Borough of Swindon merged), then asks “do you think the name of your local bus company should have more reference to Swindon?” So far, so innocuous. It then asks a question popular with those that create surveys about brands and the marketing of new products: is the name Thamesdown in “Old fashioned and represents the past” or “Current and relevant to Swindon” as though a name cannot be both at the same time.

If you’re standing at a bus stop waiting for a bus, with both a Thamesdown bus and a Stagecoach bus approaching, are you really thinking — even subconsciously — about whether the name on the bus feels old fashioned or ‘current and relevant’? Might not questions such as ‘Which bus will get me to town first?’ or ‘Will the driver give me change for a £5 note?’ or ‘Will I get a seat or will I have to stand?’ be more important? And if the approaching bus has some new name on it that you don’t yet recognise — and maybe is painted a different colour — will that help you answer those questions? As there are still a few people around who refer to Thamesdown buses as ‘Corporation buses’ — which they ceased to be in 1986 — if Go Ahead do choose to change the name of Thamesdown Transport to something else, it could be years before the new brand becomes familiar to passengers and potential passengers in Swindon and the surrounding area.

Brand awareness and brand loyalty are fragile things — companies play with them at their peril.

Municipal buses in Swindon, 1927-2017, RIP

A Thamesdown Transport bus in central Swindon
A Thamesdown bus passing through Emlyn Square
Swindon Borough Council has provided public transport services in Swindon since 22 September 1904. Initially these were tramways, but starting from 1927 bus services were introduced, replacing the trams between 6 May and 11 July 1929. Legislation to deregulate bus services in 1986 brought significant changes, with Thamesdown Transport incorporated as a limited company at “arm’s length” from Swindon Borough Council — though at times that arm was rather short. But Swindon was unusual, in that its municipal bus operator remained in public ownership. That has ended in 2017. Thamesdown Transport has been sold to Go South Coast — part of the Go Ahead Group which also owns Salisbury Reds and Oxford Bus Company, and part owns the infamous Govia Thameslink Railway.

Thamesdown Transport profit and cash flow
Profit and cash flow of Thamesdown Transport, 1994 to 2016, adjusted for inflation. Underlying figures exclude one-off payments for pension liabilities and depot sale and purchase.
Swindon council claims to have sold its bus company because the company is making unsustainable losses in “difficult trading conditions”. Thamesdown Transport has been unprofitable — losing almost £1.5M in the last five years — and has been propped up twice by the council in that period. In 2012 the council took on the company’s pension liabilities to the local council pension scheme, the bus company receiving £1.5M in return for paying an ongoing fee to the council. In 2014 the council bought and leased back the company’s Barnfield depot in 2014, injecting £2M into the company. But a review of the company’s published accounts suggests that it is cash flow rather than profitability that’s the problem. The sale and lease back of the Barnfield depot appears to have been in response to a lack of cash, rather than unprofitability, with the accounts showing the company had less than £10,000 in the bank at the end of March 2014. And expected results for this year — reportedly a loss £149,000 — show smaller losses than in some recent years.

Thamesdown Transport revenue
Revenue for Thamesdown Transport, 1994 to 2016, adjusted for inflation.
So what brought Swindon’s municipal bus company down? An ongoing theme in the chairman’s report to the annual accounts is the cost of servicing liabilities to the Local Government Pension Scheme, and this has remained even after the re-arrangement of the liability in 2012. Another theme in recent years has been a downturn in bus travel to-and-from Swindon town centre — always the most profitable part of the company’s bus services. The annual reports do not give reasons, but the stalled regeneration of the town centre and congestion in central Swindon caused by major roadworks are both well known to local residents for many of whom the town centre is now only a destination of necessity rather than one of choice. Not surprisingly the chairman — in recent years always a councillor or ex-councillor from the controlling group on the council — makes no mention of the impact that a reduction in car parking charges by the council may have had. The bus fleet has aged too: in 1996 the company chairman reported that ⅓ would be less than three years old; by 2017 only 4 out of 88 serviceable buses were less than three years old. Recent annual reports comment on the increased costs of maintaining that ageing fleet. Competition from Stagecoach is rarely mentioned, but cannot have helped, as that company has consistently held its suburban return fares at a lower level than Thamesdown and has actively competed on routes to west and south Swindon. Another contributing factor may have been the loss of developer contributions to buses serving new housing developments — hit by the severe downturn in house building since the 2008 credit crunch.

Thamesdown Transport and its depot have reportedly been sold to Go South Coast for close to their book value — almost £7M for the company and £4M for the depot. What we don’t know is whether the deal also frees the company of its remaining pension liabilities to Swindon Borough council for the Local Government Pension Scheme, or whether that will now be picked up by Swindon tax payers.

Full disclosure: the publisher of komadori’s green corner is a minor shareholder of both Go Ahead Group and Stagecoach Group.

Council admits they’ve no evidence of public support for new parishes

map showing new parishes in Swindon
New parishes are being imposed on West Swindon, and Central Swindon.
Swindon Borough Council has admitted, in response to a freedom of information request, that they’ve no evidence of public support for the creation of new parishes in Swindon — it’s just the councillors’ opinion.

At the November full council meeting, a member of the public pointed out to Ms Martin, the cabinet member for communities, that the overwhelming view in the written responses to the council’s community governance review was that those in unparished areas did not want them to be parished. In response to that Ms Martin said,

“Of those relatively few who replied and expressed a view you are right and the Council has acknowledged that. Indeed, that is why the Council held the engagement sessions and public meetings to understand why some people responded as they did, which is why the Council believes that most residents accept that the unparished areas should be parished if communities are to be empowered in relation to the provision of services and be able to be efficient and effective.”

The freedom of information request asked the Swindon Borough council to published the “data and analysis” that they have in support of this assertion. This was the council’s reply.

“The Council held a number of engagement sessions and public meetings. Verbatim notes were not taken as to what each person said but the sense of each meeting and engagement session was fed into the Community Governance Review process…. [T]he Council has not made any detailed record of the engagement sessions such as you appear to have asked for. The Cabinet Member attended the majority of engagement activities and on that basis heard in person the views of residents attending.”

We are, apparently, asked to believe that no substantive records were kept of these meetings by council officers, and that the decision to impose new parishes on the inhabitants of central and west Swindon is entirely the result of one politician’s view of the meetings, a view that contradicts press reports of those meetings.

Perhaps Ms Martin should consider asking the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to change the statutory guidance for community governance from saying “The views of local communities and inhabitants are of central importance” to “The only views that matter are those of ruling-party politicians and local communities and inhabitants can be ignored”.

Submission to Swindon Borough Council Community Governance Review

map showing parish between Swindon town centre and M4 motorway
Swindon Borough Council’s proposal for a new South Swindon parish
This submission refers repeatedly to:

Although only the proposed South Swindon parish and its boundaries are discussed, many of the points made are applicable to other of the proposed new parishes and their boundaries.

Do you agree with the boundaries proposed in the consultation map?
No. If South Swindon is to be parished, Old Town, Lawn and Okus should not be part of a parish containing the new developments of Wichelstowe, Marlborough Park and Badbury Park.

Please provide further detail about your opinion/position
As noted in the Council’s own documents on the review, Section 93 subsection 4 of The Act requires that in conducting this Community Governance Review, Swindon Borough Council must ensure governance in the area under review is

  • reflective of the identities and interests of the community in that area and
  • effective and convenient

Paragraph 33 of The Boundary Commission Guidance indicates how the first of these points should be satisfied. It states

“When undertaking the review they must have regard to the need to secure that community governance reflects the identities and interests of the community in the area under review, and the need to secure that community governance in that area is effective and convenient.”

Paragraphs 50 and 80 add to this by stating

Paragraph 50 “Parish councils continue to have two main roles: community representation and local administration. For both purposes it is desirable that a parish should reflect a distinctive and recognisable community of place, with its own sense of identity. The views of local communities and inhabitants are of central importance.”
Paragraph 80 “The general rule should be that the parish is based on an area which reflects community identity and interest and which is of a size which is viable as an administrative unit of local government. This is generally because of the representative nature of parish councils and the need for them to reflect closely the identity of their communities.”

The proposed South Swindon parish does not conform with this guidance. Whilst separation of this area from Wroughton is ‘reflective of the identities and interests of the community in that area’ and is consistent with Paragraph 58 of The Boundary Commission Guidance, joining the new developments of Wichelstowe, Marlborough Park and Badbury Park with the more established communities of Old Town, Okus, and Lawn is not.Whilst there is a Wichelstowe sense of community and apparently a Badbury Park sense of community, and may well be an Old Town sense of community, there is not a sense of community binding together all the areas within the proposed South Swindon parish, other than a an overall sense of community to the town of Swindon.

The Cabinet Report of August 2016 states in paragraph 3.27 in relation to the proposed South Swindon parish:

“The residents of the new homes at East Wichel have strong community identity links with other parts of the main urban area rather than with the largely rural Wroughton parish to the south.”

Whilst it may be the case that many in East Wichel have ‘strong community identity links with other parts of the main urban area’, it is not true to say that those links are with the immediately adjacent areas of Old Town and Okus, and no credible evidence of such links is provided. Although the same paragraph of the document states

“There was also a submission to the 2011 LGCBE requesting the creation of a Wichelstowe and Okus ward, which is evidence of a shared identity there.”

However, in 2011 less than half of the houses in East Wichel had been built, and a single submission to the boundary commission cannot be deemed to be representative of the community, particularly as it is not identified as being a submission from the community. Having reviewed the documents submitted to that boundary review it appears the suggestion was one from a political party (namely the Labour Party’s proposal to stage 1 of the review) in 2010, and not from the communities in Okus or East Wichel. It is thus not credible to use this as evidence of being “reflective of the identities and interests of the community in that area”.

The same paragraph also states

“The West and Middle Wichel areas, once developed, will also have community, housing tenure and transport links that will make them more similar to the contiguous urban core to which they are attached.”

There is no evidence for this. Whilst Wichelstowe is likely to have similar community to the other newly developed areas in the proposed South Swindon parish, such as Badbury Park, it is far from clear why the mainly high density housing in Old Town and Okus would be expected to have similar ‘community, housing tenure’ to the lower density areas now being developed closer to the M4.

Section 94 of The Act permits parish councils for parishes with more than 150 local government electors and requires them for parishes with 1,000 or more electors. Paragraph 80 of The Boundary Commission Guidance also gives specific guidance on parish size, in relation to community governance being effective and convenient.

“The general rule should be that the parish is based on an area which reflects community identity and interest and which is of a size which is viable as an administrative unit of local government…. It is desirable that any recommendations should be for parishes or groups of parishes with a population of a sufficient size to adequately represent their communities and to justify the establishment of a parish council in each. Nevertheless as previously noted, it is recognised that there are enormous variations in the size of parishes, although most parishes are below 12,000 in population.”

Paragraph 81 of The Boundary Commission Guidance indicates that a parish representing a single estate or development is acceptable:

“A parish council should be in a position to provide some basic services and many larger parishes will be able to offer much more to their local communities. However, it would not be practical or desirable to set a rigid limit for the size of a parish whether it is in a rural or urban area, although higher population figures are generally more likely to occur in urban areas. Equally, a parish could be based on a small but discrete housing estate rather than on the town within which the estate lies.”

Paragraph 82 of The Boundary Commission Guidance indicates when larger parishes may be acceptable:

“There may be cases where larger parishes would best suit the needs of the area. These might include places where the division of a cohesive area, such as a Charter Trustee town (see paragraphs 133 to 134), would not reflect the sense of community that needs to lie behind all parishes; or places where there were no recognisable smaller communities.”

None of the criteria in Paragraph 82 of The Boundary Commission Guidance apply to the communities within the proposed South Swindon parish, yet Paragraph 3.29 of The Cabinet Report of August 2016 dismisses a proposal for a smaller parish:

“The residents of the new development at Badbury Park have expressed a desire to set up their own parish; however, as this area is still under construction, it is deemed too small at this time to provide convenient and effective local governance.”

This appears to be inconsistent with The Boundary Commission Guidance deeming that there may be significant variation in parish size and it still be consistent with effective and convenient governance.

Paragraph 83 of The Boundary Commission Guidance give specific details on the boundaries between parishes

“As far as boundaries between parishes are concerned, these should reflect the “no-man’s land” between communities represented by areas of low population or barriers such as rivers, roads or railways. They need to be, and be likely to remain, easily identifiable.”

The boundary for the proposed South Swindon parish through Old Town, whilst it follows the line of roads, clearly does not ‘reflect the “no-man’s land” between communities represented by areas of low population’, as there is no reason to believe that residents or businesses on the opposite sides of Bath Road, Albert Street and Church Road would regard themselves as being in different communities. The boundary between the canal at Rushey Platt and the Great Western mainline also seems arbitrary. Whilst it is in what, at the moment, a no-man’s land, it is in part following a minor stream and in some parts aligned to nothing whatsoever. It thus does not meet The Boundary Commission Guidance “to be, and be likely to remain, easily identifiable.”

It is not apparent how, in a way that is consistent with The Boundary Commission Guidance, Old Town can be separated for parishing purposes from Swindon New Town. A boundary that would be in ‘the “no-man’s land” between communities’ and would “be, and be likely to remain, easily identifiable.” would be one along the course of the former railway line from Rushey Platt to Old Town, from the point where it crosses the Great Western mainline, to the boundary of housing on Wyvern Close, running to the south of Fitzroy Road, Ambrose Road and Linley Close, Tismeads Crescent and Riverdale Close, then to the north of Nationwide and Intel offices offices, then north of the Marlborough Park development but behind the housing on Marlborough Road, to rejoin the Council’s proposed boundary at the Coate Water roundabout. Placing the boundary in this way would also limit the disruption to the longer established parts of south Swindon when, as noted in Paragraphs 3.56 and 3.57 of the The Cabinet Report of August 2016,

“Members are aware of the expected housing completions in Badbury Park as well as the expected new homes that are to be built in West and Middle Wichel…. Therefore, Cabinet is asked to note that a further Community Governance Review may become necessary in the next few years, depending on the rate at which these new communities become established.”

Any other comments relating to the Community Governance Review
Section 93 subsection 5 of The Act states:

In deciding what recommendations to make, the principal council must take into account any other arrangements (apart from those relating to parishes and their institutions)—

  1. that have already been made, or
  2. that could be made,

for the purposes of community representation or community engagement in respect of the area under review.

Paragraph 136 of The Boundary Commission Guidance expands on that, stating:

In deciding what recommendations to make, the principal council must take into account any other arrangements (apart from those relating to parishes and their institutions)—

  1. that have already been made, or
  2. that could be made,

for the purposes of community representation or community engagement in respect of the area under review.

The Council does not seem to have considered amending its use of its existing Locality teams and of existing community associations as part of this Community Governance Review. Papers to the Swindon Borough Council Cabinet meeting of 16 June 2016 on “Future Direction – Transfer of Services to Parish Councils” note that

“The Cabinet could continue with the existing service delivery model”

but do not discuss options for amending the current model. I also note that the focus in the papers to Cabinet in this respect is on service delivery, not community governance. It therefore seems that the requirements of Section 93 subsection 5 of The Act have not been fulfilled and that the recommendations of Paragraph 136 of The Boundary Commission Guidance have not been followed.

Paragraph 59 of The Boundary Commission Guidance states

“Parishes should reflect distinctive and recognisable communities of interest, with their own sense of identity. Like neighbourhoods, the feeling of local community and the wishes of local inhabitants are the primary considerations.”

The overwhelming view of inhabitants in the the areas that are currently unparished, as expressed in responses to the earlier stages of this Community Governance Review, is that they are opposed to their areas being parished. It thus appears that in continuing to propose the parishing of areas that are not currently parished, Swindon Borough Council is failing to regard “the wishes of local inhabitants” as “the primary considerations”, in contravention of The Boundary Commission Guidance.

An afternoon of sausages and ale

Old Town was alive on Sunday afternoon with visitors wandering between the venues of the Sausage and Ale Trail in Swindon Old Town. The event, to raise funds for the Christmas lights in Old Town, was fortunate with warm sunny weather. With entertainment and market stalls in Wood Street, several pubs were offering sausages — usually served outside — to eat along with their beer. Several shops also had promotions for the day. The Hop Inn was perhaps the most fortunate. With the Arts Centre next door also being a licensed premise, it was able to sell sausages and beer from a counter facing the Arts Centre serving the small crowd watching the entertainment there. For other pubs, it was more discreet, in some cases so discreet that one wondered whether they were worried the event might disrupt their normal Sunday lunch trade.

So busy was the Hop Inn that it ran out of sausages and had to get an urgent re-supply.
Out of bangers at the mo!
A crowd and queue soon formed once they had restocked.
Swindon Old Town Sausage and Ale Trail

Creditors grab the Brunel Centre

The Brunel — in trouble

In a rather complex chain of financial transactions, it appears that the Brunel Centre has been forced into the hands of ‘fixed charge receivers’ by the fall in property values in recent years. The centre — which is owned by a Jersey-registered company — had breached some of the terms of a loan — traded on the Irish stock exchange — of over £110 M in the first half of last year. The creditor’s agentappointed after the default — had also had the centre revalued, reducing its worth by almost a third, down to £87 M, less than the value of the loan. The closure of the Liquid & Envy nightclub was estimated to have lost the centre income of £90,000, but this was less than 4% of their total income.

With the loan due for repayment on 25 April this year, and with over £100 M of the loan still outstanding, the creditors were clearly getting worried about the chances of getting their money back, and have taken possession whilst considering options, including the possibility of selling the centre. The appointment of receivers was announced on 22 December.

Car park design Musings

Islington & Carfax Street car parks

It seems that unadorned multi-storey car parks have gone out of fashion. Not that they were ever something that could be described as ‘fashionable’. But at least the simple construction of a series of floors, plainly open to the elements, was unpretentious and offer scope for some styling. Looking down Islington Street three such car parks from the 1960s and 1970s are visible. They’re not pretty, but they are functional, with Islington Street Car Park and the Menzies Hotel quite well matched in their brickwork.

Now for the first stage of Muse’s Union Square development something far less simple has been proposed to replace — on a different site — Carfax Street Car Park: a car park encased in aluminium and terracotta ‘fins’. According to the architects, this freak of architecture has

a language for the building where the whole was greater than the sum of the individual parts…. The façade design balances the practical requirement of allowing natural ventilation through the building and creating a striking visual appeal to the building.

Only in the mind of an architect could an overgrown fence be thought of as having ‘a striking visual appeal’.

Union Square car park

In comparison with that, the block of 45 flats to be built nearby are almost stylish. And in the artist’s impression of the flats they felt obliged to hide the car park behind some trees!

Union Square flats

Swindon housing supply

Today the planning enquiry starts into the planning application from Persimmon and Redrow Homes to build near Coate Water at Commonhead. This is what’s left of the former ‘Swindon Gateway’ project.

With other areas identified for house building — for example Wichelstowe and Tadpole Farm — already having space for many thousands of houses, it is perhaps timely that just two weeks ago the Department of Communities and Local Government published figures for housing supply during the last financial year. For Swindon, the figure for ‘net supply of new dwellings’ is down by 11% compared with the year before. (By comparison, across the whole of south-west England there was no significant change, and for England as a whole there was a decrease of 6%.)

Net housing supply for Swindon
Year 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11
Dwellings 1710 1550 2260 1940 970 880 780

At the rate of building seen in recent years, land already identified for new building is sufficient to keep the builders going in Swindon for many years. Even if they forecast a recovery in the housing market, for the developers to argue — as they no doubt will — that there is a desperate need for extra land to be released for housing in Swindon is fanciful in the extreme.

East Wichel — in search of ghosts

Last night in their Inside Out programme the BBC presented a report on Wichelstowe. The report was introduced by Alastair McKee as “The Homeowners who say they’re living in what amounts to a ghost town’, yet the reality is very different.

The BBC have interviewed many people in East Wichel over recent weeks — komadori was one of them. The views expressed by many in those interviews were that it’s a very nice place to live. The community spirit is great and there’s quite a bit going on. It would be nice if there were some more facilities open in the development — such as some shops and a children”s play area — but given how slow the housing market is, it’s no surprise things are taking longer than originally planned. Some of the first that were housed in the area by Sovereign Living feel let down as things haven’t turned out as planned, but most that have moved in since knew it was going to be quite some time before facilities would be available. In short, it’s nice, it could be better, but for most there haven’t been any surprises.

Watch Mr McKee’s report and the impression you’ll get is distinctly grimmer. No mention of community spirit, only of ‘out reach’, despite filming community events. Little mention of what people expected before they moved here, only of what more they would want. Only five interviews were used of the many that were done, and many whose interviews were left out have said their comments were more positive than those used in the report. Even the interviewee in the most critical interview shown in the report has said her interview was edited to leave out the good things she had to say about the community. And where are “The Homeowners who say they’re living in what amounts to a ghost town’? Despite Alastair McKee’s introduction, none of the interviews in the report express that opinion. Fast forward through the programme to leave out Mr McKee’s distortions and listen only to the interviews, and the impression you’ll get is of a far more contented community than the report portrays. Yes, what may one day be West and Middle Wichel look rather forlorn, with roads in place years before they will carry traffic, but the East Wichel community is coming along quite contentedly thank you, albeit rather slower than most living here would have liked.

No doubt to many that watched the programme, Mr Greenhalgh’s defence of Swindon Borough Council will seem rather aggressive. To me as someone aware of the background of the report, he was giving a biased reporter everything he deserved.

East Wichel canalside

Wi-fi’s dead — long live wifi!

The report to next week’s special cabinet meeting of Swindon Borough Council makes it clear that their venture with our money to bring wifi to the whole of Swindon is dead.

So far as the Council’s interests in Digital City is concerned, further legal and financial advice will be required in this matter following which it is suggested that the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance, be authorised to take such action as he considers necessary to protect and, if appropriate conclude, the Council’s interests in Digital City and ensure that the network assets deployed in Highworth are transferred in the first instance to the Council’s ownership.

Conclude the Council’s interests, i.e. dead, finished, failed. And do we get any apology for that failure? No. Far from it. In fact, reading the report you could be forgiven for thinking the project had been a success.

Despite Digital City having failed to make interest repayments since late 2010, the granting of the loan has still proved to be financially advantageous for the Council. Sums received in interest and arrangement fees total £10.5k, while investment of the sums advanced to the company would have generated £6.9k to date at the Council’s average investment rate of return.

Let’ forget, shall we, that the original proposal said that Digital City would have repaid its £450k loan from us, the tax payers of Swindon, in full within two years. Instead, lets just be grateful. for £10.5k.

In place of an apology, we get a new proposed scheme, between Swindon Borough Council, an unnamed investor “under the ultimate ownership of a Global Telecommunications Company with annual revenues in excess of $3b US.” and that company well known for successful IT projects, Capita. Capita already provides numerous services to Swindon Borough Council. The report gives no indication as to whether Swindon Borough Council would have to stump up more of our money for this deal to go ahead. It also tries to suggest that the return on this new investment will constitute a return on the investment in Digital City (UK) Ltd.

The financial return to the Council is, therefore, enhanced by its investment in Digital City and the resulting Highworth pilot and the Council will now get a return on its investment. This will equate to the loan advance of £400k plus interest by year five or earlier depending on revenue share and this financial benefit will continue to accrue in future years…. Through these arrangements with Capita, SBC has the potential to receive significant return based on sales targets being achieved over 5 years, part of which will be credited against the loan of £400k to Digital City, and accumulated interest. Current indications are that this amount is likely to be repaid over approximately 5 years.

5 years? That’s in addition to the 2 years over which the loan to Digital City (UK) Ltd was meant to be repaid. And unless this new investor is going to take over the assets and liabilities of Digital City (UK) Ltd, then to suggest that this is a repayment of the loan to that company is the most creative of creative accounting. As the report makes clear, no such takeover is envisioned.

The Council’s intention will be to secure an orderly extraction of our interests from Digital City, with its assets being transferred to SBC to ensure that the Highworth infrastructure is kept intact. To ensure this happens, it is suggested that the Chief Executive be authorised, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance, to take such action as he considers necessary to protect and, if appropriate, conclude the Council’s interests in Digital City and ensure that the network assets deployed in Highworth are transferred in the first instance to the Council’s ownership.

So effectively, Swindon Borough Council will exercise its rights under the loan agreement with Digital City (UK) Ltd and take over the company’s network assets. It will then enter a new venture with Capita and an unnamed company. On that basis, the new venture will owe nothing from the first, despite what the report may try to suggest.

The report to Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet is written my Mr Hitesh Patel. Mr Patel is an ex-director of Digital City (UK) Ltd. Mr Patel was also an author of the original recommendation to councillors to invest in Digital City (UK) Ltd. Perhaps, then, it’s unsurprising that he writes about that investment in such glowing terms. But given how poor his advice was the first time around, and that he didn’t know he was already a director of the company he was recommending an investment in, would anyone with any sense really trust his advice again? But then, would anyone with sense have made the first investment? Answers to that on a no-questions-asked cheque for £450k please.