10/01/2022

Wales News Online

Local & National News for Wales

MORE money has been poured into Heart of Wales Property Services, (HOWPS) despite the company being brought back under Powys County Council’s wing in July.

HOWPS was a joint venture between the council and Kier construction firm which carried out repairs and maintenance on Powys’ housing stock – 5,400 homes and 630 other properties including schools.

Problems have dogged HOWPS since its inception in 2017 which caused the partnership to be continually questioned by councillors.

The contract was set to run until  2027 but a break clause which allowed either party to terminate the partnership in July 2022 was invoked by the council.

In July round 150 workers were transferred back to work for Powys.

Last month a confidential report on HOWPS appeared in front of members of the cabinet for a “delegated decision.”

Questions have been asked as to whether this was to do with the council buying up to £350,000 of shares in HOWPS.

A Powys County Council spokesman said:

“The council and Kier have both agreed to purchase additional shares in HOWPS to ensure that the company’s debts are paid to the primarily locally based supply chain.”

They spokesman added that: “it was not the case” that another £350,000 worth of shares in HOPW had been bought earlier this year.

As to how much public money Powys have ploughed into the firm in total over the five years the council spokesman refused to answer – saying that this “commercially sensitive” information.

On the Companies House website, HOWPS is still an “active company” and in April, filed its accounts for the period up to the end of June 2021.

These accounts show a loss of £1,039million which is an increase from a £668,000 loss in 2020.

Of these losses Powys is liable for half of the sum which is just under £520,000.

Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan said:

“The whole saga with HOWPS has been a disaster for Powys at the expense of Powys ratepayers.

“Let it be a lesson if how not to do things and ensure that we get full transparency and openness on such matters.”

Calls have already been made for a “lessons learned” exercise to be held into HOWPS.

At  a meeting of the Governance and Audit committee in June, vice-chairman and lay-member John Brautigam believed that it was important to understand what happened to HOWPS so that it would help the council set up “arm’s length bodies” in future.

 

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