Hereford Transport Alliance have issued a statement following a meeting last week regarding spending on the proposed Western Bypass of Hereford.

Hereford Transport Alliance deeply regrets that Council’s General Scrutiny Committee rejected the call-in of a Bypass spending decision at their 29 March meeting.

Council officers are now authorized to spend a further £3.65m on consultancy work for the Hereford Bypass – a staggering £10,000 per day over the coming 12 months.

The meeting was a wretched example of “open democracy”. Those questions from the public that had been accepted for the meeting did not have written answers, meaning committee members could not follow up the points raised by the public. Written answers are promised with ten days. Too late.

A major concern – not the first time this has happened – is that consultants from Balfour Beatty / WSP were on hand to support the Cabinet member and officers in justifying the spending decision. This is outrageous – without even a declaration of interest, consultants are advising council on how public money is spent for their own benefit. And this in front of the committee which is supposed to scrutinise spending decisions to ensure they are in the public interest.

Only after probing by the opposition councillors was a document produced showing how the council intends to spend the money. HTA views it as incredible that over 20% (£818k) of the budget is shown as a “Risk and Contingency allowance”. On work that is only due to take one year to complete, an allowance for uncertainties should never be that high. Consultants and officers told the meeting that they were in control of the project and were using tried and tested project management tools. If so, why the need for a 20% contingency in the budget?