Our Sutton Council reporter, BELLE MONT, on how the pressure is mounting on the LibDems’ leadership
Sutton Council’s opposition Tories are demanding that “Calamity” Jayne McCoy, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat-controlled council, should resign from her role as chair of the housing, economy and business committee, from where she has presided over the multi-million failed council heating network, SDEN.
McCoy is accused of lying to councillors and residents and being “happy to put two fingers up to taxpayers and residents” over the misfiring heating system, which has caused anguish and increased energy costs for those unfortunate enough to be tied in to a monopoly supply deal at the New Mill Quarter development in Hackbridge.
The call was made at a council meeting on Monday night by Catherine Gray, the Conservatives’ lead member on the HEB, who followed it up with a letter sent to McCoy on Wednesday. Having not received even an acknowledgement, Gray made her letter public last night.
Gray’s letter schools McCoy on the importance of the Nolan Principles of conduct in public life, and accuses the senior LibDem councillor of breaking at least three of the seven points which have been adopted into the council’s code of conduct, including “Honesty – [councillors] should be truthful”.
Gray wrote, “In view of your repeated instances of ignoring clear evidence that went against your desired political outcome, your repeated instances of providing members with false statements, and especially in light of your total indifference to the suffering of the customers of SDEN at New Mill Quarter, I now demand that you resign your position as chair of the HEB committee, and relinquish your role as lead member for SDEN.
“To fail to resign would simply demonstrate that this Liberal Democrat administration is happy to mislead members, happy to mislead the public and happy to mislead customers of SDEN.
“Or, as I said at council on Monday, happy to put two fingers up to taxpayers and residents, as well as fellow members.”
SDEN was devised by Sutton Council as a means of “greenwashing” the polluting Beddington incinerator, by taking energy generated from burning the rubbish from four south London councils, including Croydon, and using it to heat or provide hot water for homes and businesses.
In five years, SDEN has only managed to secure a single customer outlet – Barratts through their NMQ homes – and it has never used as much as a hot water bottle’s worth of energy from the incinerator.
As Inside Sutton reported last month, the dispassionate accountants from civic accountancy body CIPFA have found that the SDEN financial model included business income from non-existent homes and grants from a “green” heat incentive that their scheme was ineligible for.
If the financial model had been accurate, CIPFA suggested, SDEN would have failed.
Sutton’s Tories have been calling for a fraud investigation into SDEN.
In her letter, Gray wrote to McCoy, “You have been a constant fixture in the concept, inception, planning and operation of Sutton Decentralised Energy Network Ltd…
“Despite numerous questions to Council, from councillors and members of the public, you continued to insist, among other things, that:
- “No extra buildings were used in the modelling. This has proven to be 100 per cent untrue.
- “SDEN did not have to return a prescribed profit. This has proven to be untrue.
- “KPMG found ‘no material issues’ with the financial model. This has proven to be untrue.
- “KPMG ‘verified’ the financial model. This is untrue.
- “SDEN prices were ‘benchmarked’ against the Heat Calculator. The Heat Trust has confirmed that the calculator is not a ‘benchmark’, and must not be used as one, so this is untrue.
- “Further, in 2015 you told the Sutton Guardian that SDEN would be scrapped if it was not profitable. This has proven to be untrue.
“You have therefore repeatedly misled members with the false statements you have made and the answers you have given to questions at council.
“There can be no excuse for this…
“It is a fact that the CIPFA report has shown the issues I lay out here are accurately portrayed… it is implausible that you were unaware of what was going on.
“If your excuse is that officers failed to inform you, or misled you, then you were not doing your job.
“If your excuse is that you knew the facts but suffered the same ‘optimism bias’ as officers and consultants, then you were not doing your job. You are a qualified chartered accountant, and you have publicly backed a report from a leading accountancy firm that was based on false assumptions.
“This is a serious case of culpability by omission of duty of care, an omission that for a qualified accountant should be a serious matter.
“This cannot be allowed to go on.”
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