There has been concern raised about the funding relationship between NCP car parks and Bolton Council, specifically in relation to debt owed by NCP to Bolton Council, following the Covid pandemic.
This is a commercially sensitive agreement and it has taken time to gather all the relevant facts but today we can reveal the facts.
The Conservatives are trying to take political advantage of this situation, despite knowing full well that they were in charge of the NCP debt when running the Council between 2019 and 2023.
The facts –
- NCP car parks are owned by Bolton Council and managed on the Council’s behalf by NCP
- In pre-pandemic times, the NCP/Bolton Council agreement brought in income of £55000 a month for the Council
- This changed when the pandemic hit as car parks in Bolton (and around the UK) went unused
- The Conservatives ran the Council between May 2019 and May 2023
- From 2020 to 2023, NCP’s debt rose to over £4m
- The debt was referred to a debt agency by Council officers in January 2021 when the figure stood at £900000
- The debt was referred again in January 2022 when the figure was allowed to rise to £1.8m
- In February 2022, the Conservative Councillors, in secret, called off the bailiffs and began negotiations with NCP
The Conservatives allowed the debt to rise and failed to address the issue –
- The Conservatives entered into negotiation with NCP and called off the bailiffs again
- The Conservatives received ‘informal’ briefings, keeping it from Councillors, the press and the public. No written reports were produced and no disclosures made to any non Conservative Councillors.
- The Conservatives while calling off the debt allowed the payments made by NCP to increase from £55000 to £78000, increasing the NCP debt further.
- The negotiations were concluded in June 2023, less than a month into the new Labour administration on Bolton Council
- Nick Peel, the Leader of Bolton Council, was informed of the debt issue for the first time in June. This was after the negotiations were concluded
- The details of this were made public not long after Nick Peel became aware. He felt it was right to be transparent about the Council’s finances. It is disgraceful that the Conservatives have tried to take advantage of the new Labour Council being transparent about finances when the Conservatives hid it from the public.
Conclusions of the negotiations of the £4m
- NCP to pay the Council £2.8m of the debt immediately.
- The rest, £1.2m, will be paid to the Council by using specific Covid grants allocated by Government for this purpose
- Bolton Council has administered £60m of Covid grants on behalf of the Government since the pandemic to support a number of businesses
- The £1.2m for NCP was taken from a general Covid grant given by Government that could only be spent for this purpose
- If the Council did not spend the money for this purpose, it would be returned to Government unspent
In conclusion –
- Pre-pandemic, the NCP car parks were a source of income for Bolton Council, funding the Highways budget to the tune of £55k
- Since the pandemic, this has not been the case
- NCP debt rose to £4m under the Conservative-run Council
- The Conservatives allowed the £55k payments from NCP to increase to £79k, increasing the debt further
- Conservatives hid this all from public scrutiny
- Labour found out in June and immediately opened the matter up to scrutiny and transparency
- The settlement resulted in the loss of ZERO Council funds
- Income will resume again from NCP in April 2024, giving more money to fund Council services
Don’t be fooled by snide Tory tactics.