Valley Gardens audit report under fire

An internal audit failed to address key issues including concerns about a lack of transparency in the council decision-making process, according to the councillor who called for the report.

Conservative councillor Lee Wares asked for auditors to look into the way decisions were made about the £8 million revamp of the road layout from Old Steine to the Palace Pier.

The project, known as Valley Gardens Phase 3, has been dogged by opposition, with the plan to replace the Aquarium roundabout with traffic lights among the controversial aspects of the scheme.

Councillor Wares said that he had no criticism of the auditors’ professionalism but felt that they had been constrained.

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The report, which followed a “desktop audit”, found that “appropriate decision-making processes had been followed” by Brighton and Hove City Council.

But the report added: “The matters raised in this report are only those which came to our attention during our internal audit work and are not necessarily a comprehensive statement of all the weaknesses that exist, or of all the improvements that may be required.”

Councillor Wares was concerned that crucial information was withheld from councillors before they made key decisions about the Valley Gardens scheme.

And in response to the audit report he also said: “The audit report fails to address the concerns I raised regarding not just the failure of the council to conduct a full ‘environmental impact assessment’ but that the council has not conducted any traffic or environmental impact studies on the changes to the preferred option that includes a fifth south bound bus lane and (changes to) Duke’s Mound.

“The audit report does confirm that traffic modelling has not been included for Duke’s Mound but subsequently suggests that it has been considered.

“The audit report also claims that traffic modelling has been considered post-consultation although at (the) Environment, Transport and Sustainability (Committee) officers confirmed that they did not know how traffic would move or be displaced.

“This is contrary to the audit report that says the council’s consultants did include displaced traffic.”

The audit findings are due to be reported to the council’s Audit and Standards Committee on Tuesday (14 January) at a meeting at Hove Town Hall.

Two public questions are included in the agenda papers for the meeting, both relating to the rigour of the investigation.

One, from Rob Shepherd, said: “Valley Gardens Phase 3 falls far short of the benefits-to-costs ratio threshold needed to secure public funds but, by erroneously inflating benefits more than 100 per cent, secured substantial funds.”

The other, from Daniel Nathan, said that he was “disappointed” with the audit report, saying that it lacked “extensive rigour”.

Mr Nathan, a founding member of the Valley Gardens Forum campaign group, said: “Given that this document has taken six months to produce, I’m puzzled that there is so little supporting data.

“Would the chair confirm that this committee will require the internal audit team to remedy this situation by producing an appendix containing the evidence they used to make each assertion?”

  1. Shake a Leg Reply

    The roundabout is about the only thing keeping traffic flowing at a reasonable rate , once they take it away, be prepared for chaos.

    • TP Reply

      I agree. They keep saying we need a traffic light system (t-junction) because the existing roundabout is dangerous. It’s not the roundabout that’s dangerous it’s some of the mindless motorists that use it that are dangerous. Maybe the roundabout should be bigger?

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