Darren Fower on the Icelandic Losses

Council have recovered part of the cash they lost speculating in Iceland, but opinions differ on whether the losses were avoidable. LibDem Leader Darren Fower points out that this is no cause for celebration and he believes that a formal apology to the residents is long overdue. Broadcast at 07:10 on Wednesday 21st July 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Paul Stainton on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PAUL: Peterborough City Council this morning has announced it’s recovered over two million pounds they’d invested in Icelandic banks. When the Icelandic banking system collapsed at the end of two thousand and eight the city had three million pounds invested with two banks. But it still means that the Council could lose as much as nine hundred thousand pounds which is still outstanding. Darren Fower is the Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Peterborough City Council. Morning Darren.
DARREN: Good morning Paul.

PAUL: We’re estimating what? That we’re going to lose around half a million, six hundred thousand, something like that?
DARREN: If you work on the latest figures that were presented to City Council as part of the formal report then yes. But already we’re hearing murmurings from officers that the figure may vary. And I think one of the issues that the Liberal Democrats on Peterborough City Council want to highlight is the isue of clarity. The bottom line is they tried to be clever. They weren’t. They made a mistake, and they’ve lost hundreds of thousands of pounds of your money, my money and the listeners’ money.
PAUL: Yes. They’re not on their own though here though are they? And they did take best advice.
DARREN: Well dare I say it somebody said to me the other day that they sound a little bit like some sort of alcoholic father with a gambling problem, trying to explain his mistake to his family. The bottom line is, yes, mistakes were made by others, but there were also authorities like Brighton that had common sense, pulled their money out, made some money and walked away.
PAUL: Yes but this could have been a lot worse couldn’t it? They have got two thirds of this cash back.
DARREN: Well the effort of securing the money is not Peterborough City Council’s. It’s an amalgamated effort of organisations like the Local Government Association and other related agencies. So we have to be fair on that front. And obviously two million is better than nothing. But we are still talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds that could be lost for ever. And given the present financial climate, job losses etcetera, and cuts in services, then I’m afraid this really isn’t very good.
PAUL: So are you calling for heads to roll over this?
DARREN: I think at the very least some of these senior officers that are paid huge figures in regards to salary should apologise to the people of Peterborough, and more importantly it’s a shame that even though your effort is good it takes a radio station to get a proper response from the Council in regards to where we are on this day.
PAUL: Yes. Well that’s what we’re here for. We try not to waste the public purse. (LAUGHS)
DARREN: Well we appreciate it. (LAUGHS)
PAUL: The best case scenario here is we’re going to lose about half a million, worst case, about nine hundred thousand, and this I presume has already been budgeted for by the Council?
DARREN: Well we are in a situation where the Council are looking to make fifteen million pounds worth of cuts this financial year. So somewhere within that I’m sure they have attributed the Icelandic fiasco. However, the bottom line remains that they made a mistake, with our money, and quite simply we believe they should apologise.
PAUL: And the Council has changed the way it deals with investing money. Are you confident those changes are adequate?
DARREN: I’m afraid I am not Paul.
PAUL: Why not?
DARREN: Because it’s the constant line that we receive from the Town Hall, about not needing to worry. However we are regularly receiving information that doesn’t exactly fuel us with confidence. You’ve had other councillors on this station, and they’ve expressed their concern on a variety of issues. And whether it’s roundabouts that buses can’t go round, or bus lanes that are revoked, or more recently the Cathedral Square issue and the fountains. This is our money, and these people are supposed to represent us, and dare I say I don’t think they are.
PAUL: He’s Darren Fower. He’s the Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Peterborough City Council. He wants an apology from Council officers to the people of Peterborough regarding possibly a nine hundred thousand pounds loss to the Icelandic banks, maybe around five six hundred thousand. But he wants an apology from Council officers.