Flagship quango runs up £4.5m bill 'doing nothing'
CRITICS have hit out at the £4.5 million bill for a Scottish Government quango which has yet to achieve anything.
The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) was set up by SNP ministers to build and fund infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals, roads and even the replacement for the Forth Road Bridge.
But so far it has provided advice to only 13 projects and has built nothing.
Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis pointed out that this had not stopped a 50 per cent rise in its annual cost from estimates in its business plan last year.
Question marks remain over its ability to do anything other than provide advice.
A Scottish Government spokesman insisted the quango was keeping to its budget.
He said the original estimate was 3.1 million for this financial year and that its actual running costs would be 3.063 million.
He attributed most of the increase to the money needed to provide support for the 13 community and health projects in the south-east and north of Scotland, valued at more than 2.7 billion, over the next year.
"We have tasked SFT with delivering greater value for money in infrastructure investment – delivering the schools, hospitals and transport services Scots deserve," he added.
But Mr Purvis dismissed this claim and pointed out that the wage bill alone for the SFT this year would be 1.2 million. This did not include the 15,000 due to chairman Sir Angus Grossart, who has waived his pay.
"You don't pay 1.2m in wages for people to do nothing," he said. "If the purpose of this quango is to provide advice, then it should be done in-house and not farmed out at a cost of 1 million or more."
He added: "Whatever way you look at it, the SFT has increased in price by 50 per cent in a year and has actually done and achieved nothing. That is not good value for money."
But the latest twist in the row over the SFT – which was once proposed by the SNP as a vehicle for selling Scottish Government bonds before this was found to be illegal – has angered finance secretary John Swinney.
He argued that the Liberal Democrats and others had criticised the SFT for not building schools and that when the funding was made available for it to help do that, they still complained.
"Either the Lib Dems want the SFT to deliver schools or they are against the SFT and schools – they can't have it both ways," said a source close to Mr Swinney.
Funding issues for the SFT have also been high on the agenda for council leaders in Scotland.
Representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) yesterday met officials from the SFT for talks, in which part of its business plan, published last week, was raised.
This suggested that, in future, the SFT might want to charge councils for services. Council leaders want assurances this would not be for core services.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 2 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 21 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West