As you can imagine, the people of Boston were very pleased to hear that Mr James's services to local government had been rewarded with a CBE. Thanks to the New Boston Eye for reminding us.
Observant councillors and members of the public will recall the chief executive boasting at a meeting of the full council at the end of last year that there had been criticism of a project in "my previous authority", but that he had been proved right.
Carmarthenshire readers will find a report produced by the Audit Commission in 2007 spookily familiar. The report, which looked into the project had a number of things to say, including:
- In developing plans for PRSA (Princess Royal Sports Arena), the Council, at an early stage, committed to supporting the project with a capital grant of £3 million. The development has cost over £2 million more to construct than originally expected and funds expected from other sources have not materialised to the extent projected. As a result, the Council agreed to grant a significant loan of nearly £2 million from capital resources and guarantee loans of currently £1.4 million to ensure that the facility was completed.
- In addition initial estimates of net surpluses being made by the facility over its first years of operation have turned out to be grossly inaccurate. Net running costs are proving significantly greater than first anticipated and have resulted in the Council so far contributing £0.8 million in respect of the first two years of PRSA's operation, and including provision for a further £1.1 million revenue support in its medium term financial plan (MTFP) for the next five years [i.e. up to 2010 ed.].
- The full extent of the financial exposure of the Council should have been more clearly identified in reports to members when decisions on granting additional funding were made, especially with regards to revenue 'operating' support and interest charges.
Of course, while Boston was left reflecting on this damning report, Mr James had long since departed for the rather larger playground of Carmarthenshire, with its opportunities for bigger, more grandiose schemes.
The 2007 report was by no means the end of the nightmare for Boston. One of the features of the set-up which may also strike a familiar note with Carmarthenshire citizens (think Botanic Garden, Towy bowling alley, etc.) is that a charitable company called BSI (Boston Sports Initiative) was set up to run the arena and take over from the council. The latest accounts for BSI, to October 2011, show that the council is still pumping money into the arena (£380,000 over the last two years).
Of course, any similarities between what happened in Boston and developments in Carmarthenshire are entirely coincidental. Nothing to reflect on here.