Review into Aylesbury Vale Broadband ordered following 'conflict of interest' criticisms

The AVDC Gateway building
The AVDC Gateway building

The leader of the council has been accused of creating a ‘conflict of interests’ over the authority’s Aylesbury Vale Broadband (AVB) venture.

District councillors raised several questions over Aylesbury Vale District Council’s (AVDC) commercial ventures, and whether they are scrutinised enough before the council spends public money on them.

Councillors Anders Christensen, Allison Harrison and Llew Monger all raised objections at a full council meeting on December 6.

Cllr Christensen said: “To my mind, the problems at AVB started with inherent conflicts of interest from the very outset. It was a conflict of interest that we decided to invest in a broadband company that only provided services to a small number of villages, that happened to be in one county division: that was the county division of the cabinet member that promoted the scheme”

“It was a conflict of interest that the leader of the council who should be monitoring such issues is the husband of the cabinet member that promoted the scheme. It’s put our officers in a very difficult position.

“It's been a really difficult time for them as we've been undergoing a series of redundancies where these very same officers have had to balance their duties for the company, for the council, with the key criteria of whether they kept their job.

“How do you tell the senior cabinet members that their pet project in their divisions is not performing properly, without risking your job? You can't.

“We need to recognise from the outset this This company was not set up properly. It was hampered and doomed to failure from the very start.”

The group passed an amended motion that means that AVDC are now fully obliged to investigate all that had happened at AV Broadband, AVDC’s controversial broadband project.

The motion describes current scrutiny as “limited”, which is concerning “many members” - especially with regards to conflicts of interest of directors, cabinet members and their places on the boards.

Cllr Christensen, the Lib Dem group leader, added: “The agreement to carry out an inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the rise and fall of Aylesbury Vale Broadband is very much welcomed.

“The inclusion in the review team of a representative from the Council’s auditors, BDO, will ensure professional oversight of the inquiry."

Cllr Llew Monger who has regularly raised his concerns about AVB added: “It is essential that all aspects of the AVB situation are fully examined and that the interests of the current subscribers and those who have paid deposits, but not received service, are protected.”

“The councillors who raised the motion had accepted that because of the withdrawal of Government Grants AVDC need to explore commercial avenues which “offer revenue streams and create a sustainable future.”

Council leader Neil Blake told opposition councillors that all of their concerns will be heard during the review process. He said: “The various points you and your group have made during the course of the debates, they can all be and should all be raised when the review meeting of which you will be a member is called, that will be within the timescales previously stated.

A review into Aylesbury Vale Broadband will be heard within four months according to the district council.