Report reveals concerns over Pyramids money

The Pyramids Centre in Southsea
The Pyramids Centre in Southsea
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COUNCIL officers say they can’t guarantee that £1.69m of taxpayers’ money was used properly, The News can reveal.

Southsea Community Leisure Limited has been loaned £1.69m by Portsmouth City Council since taking charge of The Pyramids Centre in 2011.

But a report by the council’s head of finance revealed only ‘limited assurance’ can be given that SCLL has used the funds at the Southsea leisure centre appropriately and has provided value for money.

It comes after an internal audit report leaked to The News revealed that while signal improvements had been made, new systems were either in the ‘infancy stages’ or a ‘work in progress’.

Auditors found that checks weren’t carried out on the daily takings of cash to bank deposits, and it was agreed that monthly spot checks needed to be done.

The report also said that:

· Bar stock in the orangery hadn’t been rotated properly which meant things had reached their sell-by date.

· No evidence was shown that the cost of waste, staff meals and liquid lost through leaks was being accounted for.

· Four of the five employee files checked did not have references, though by the end of the audit had been found.

The local authority also acted as a guarantor for SCLL for a £2m external loan.

A previous audit carried out last year revealed ‘systematic failures in management and financial controls’.

Labour group leader Councillor John Ferrett said he thought that this was not a good outcome for the taxpayers of Portsmouth.

He added: ‘Especially when they are seeing their services cut left, right and centre, and are being told there is no money left by the council leader.’

BH Live, which runs other facilities including Bournemouth International Centre, will take over in the autumn because it is a cheaper option. It will be given a £2.1m loan over five years.

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It’s the same with any other company that we work with. We don’t see their books.

‘SCLL was given lots of money. Because it is a private company we can’t give a public assurance.’

Another review was due to be carried out had SCLL’s contract been renewed.

Tim Herman, a voluntary director for SCLL, said: ‘I’m surprised because the auditors told us in their report we had made huge steps.’