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Key Powys partnership has “issues”

 
Created on 07/09/2020 @ 13:32
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

A working group has been set up to discuss the findings of a report by internal auditors on Heart Of Wales Property Services (HOWPS),

HOWPS is a joint venture between Powys County Council and construction group Kier and looks after 5,400 homes and 630 properties in the county.

SWAP (South West Audit Partners) assistant director, Ian Halstead, told the Audit committee at their meeting on Friday that more work will be done on HOWPS especially around performance and governance issues.

HOWPS has been identified as an area of significant risk for PCC due to the financial difficulties Kier has faced in recent years.

Cllr William Powell, said: “Can you tease out what the key issues are in relation to governance?

“A number of us have had concerns about the poacher and game keeper situation with regard to the directorships and the presence of the cabinet members in there.”

Cllr Powell suggested that looking at other authorities who have similar arrangements “and work well” could be helpful.

Mr Halstead said: “A report on HOWPS specifically is going to an internal audit working group in the next couple of weeks.

“I don’t want to go into great detail before that group before that group has considered this report.”

Committee chairman Cllr John Morris explained that the working group was looking at finance and governance issues. The report would then come to the Audit committee.

“Over the next month or two we will get some clarity on that for everybody,” said Cllr Morris.

Due to unhappiness with HOWPS performance there has been much talk of PCC taking the work back in house.

The 10-year contract does have a break clause which could be activated on the fifth anniversary of the contract coming into force which would be in July 2022.

Earlier this year a step-in notice had to be issued with outside contractors being brought in to service tenant heating system.

It was also revealed that the firm is £392,000 in the red with PCC liable for half of all losses.

Councillors have also been waiting since November 2019 for directors to appear before a scrutiny committee to discuss the second year report.

Several members of the PCC cabinet and senior staff are directors on the HOWPS board.

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