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Concern over Heart of Wales Property Services

 
Created on 15/02/2019 @ 09:54
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Powys County Council is concerned that a Joint Venture set up to look after 5,400 homes and 630 properties in the county is facing financial problems.

The lack of accounts lodged by Heart of Wales Property Services (HOWPS) means the company is in danger of being struck off the Companies House register.

HOWPS is a joint venture between Powys County Council and construction group Kier and started in July 2017 after 109 workers were transferred to the company by TUPE.

But continued problems with Kier’s share price has raised fears about the company, and lay member and vice chairman of the committee, John Brautigam, brought the issue up for discussion as the audit committee had a final look at the 2017/18 accounts before closing them on Thursday.

Mr Brautigam said: “To date I still don’t see any accounts for HOWPS, their profit and loss could be significant, I’m worried.”

The accounts for HOWPS were supposed to be made by December 23, 2018.

Mr Brautignam pointed out that a First Gazette warning for lack of accounts is due to be issued on February 19.

This warning would appear in the UK government’s official paper of record, The London Gazette.

This means that there would be a two-month period to object to the company being struck off Companies House.

Finance portfolio holder, Cllr Aled Davies, who is also a director of HOWPS, said: “The accounts have been submitted it’s an oversight. New companies are supposed to submit their accounts early.”

But Cllr David Thomas said is a “major concern”.

He alleged: “The Sunday Times carried an article in its business pages on January 27 on Kier, that discusses the sale of its housing repairs business that works with councils. Do we have any indication at all about Kier’s intentions? The possible implications to this authority could be quite significant.”

Cllr Davies replied: “At this moment in time there is no news. I will update if there is any information.”

Despite making a loss in their first year, deputy head of finance Steven Caple told the committee that HOWPS are confident that they will post profits making up for their first year losses and would be back in a balanced position.

Cllr Davies went on to explain that HOWPS directors had appeared before a scrutiny committee to discuss the Joint Venture back in the autumn.

“I assure you the key performance indicators are looking good,” said Cllr Davies.

Audit committee chairman, Cllr John Morris, said Council leader Cllr Rosemarie Harris will be meeting with HOWPS chiefs to discuss the situation. He added that a working group would be set up to look at how HOWPS operate.

At the last Full Council meeting, Cllr Harris agreed that councillors could discuss ways of bringing building and housing stock maintenance back under full local authority control.

In January, Kier’s chief executive Haydn Mursell was forced to stand down after launching an unpopular share rights issue which raised more than £260 million to reduce its debt.

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

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