External auditors to investigate £9m inflated Abbotts Depot purchase price

Labour councillors have referred the Council's £13.5m purchase of the Abbotts Depot site in Oakleigh Road South to the external auditors after finding out at last week's Audit Committee that they did not know the Council had paid three times more for the site than the valuation office agency said it was worth. The external auditors have now agreed to investigate it. 

Labour councillors believe that the Council have paid an unnecessary premium of £9 million for the land on the basis that it could be used for housing development, but the site is industrial land and was never intended to be developed for housing, with no planning permission for housing. 

The Council is relocating its waste depot to the Abbotts Depot site, despite opposition from local residents and Labour councillors.

Labour's Audit spokesperson and Brunswick Park councillor, Kathy Levine said: 

"Barnet residents have paid a price well in excess of the site valuation, this outrage is purely because the site owners have the Council over a barrel, and despite Labour councillors repeatedly trying to flag these issues in council meetings.

"Unfortunately we were blocked by the Conservative administration who eschewed scrutiny to push through the purchase using their majority of one.

"The bungling Barnet Conservative administration foolishly agreed the redevelopment of the current Mill Hill waste depot even though they had not secured an alternative site for relocating the borough’s refuse trucks.

"Their preferred Pinkham Way option fell through and the Abbotts Depot owners were able to take full advantage of their desperation to find an alternative.

"Residents are now paying twice for this incompetence both through the council tax money that has been needlessly squandered and through the unsuitability of this site’s stench, noise and traffic in this residential area. 

"I must say I was very surprised to hear that the external auditors did not even know that the Council had paid three times more for Abbotts Depot than the independent valuation office agency said it was worth. I'm glad I raised it with them at the Audit Committee and that they will look into it, and I will now be formally writing to them asking them to do so.

“Why are the Tories squandering council taxpayers' money at a time when they are trying to justify cutting libraries in the name of austerity, my constituents demand to know why this deal was recommended and why it was kept from the auditors?”

Ends.

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