St Albans council portfolio holder on alleged missing Verulamium lake money: ‘It was not spent on cocktails and paperclips’
A portfolio holder accused of neglecting the lake has given an assurance that the alleged money set aside by the previous council was not ‘spent on cocktails and paperclips’.
Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles, St Albans council’s portfolio holder for environment, has responded to claims by the previous portfolio holder Cllr Robert Donald that funding was assigned to prevent the issues that have plagued the lake over recent years.
The current Conservative cabinet took over in 2011 from the Liberal Democrats and Cllr Donald said that his cabinet had money set aside to maintain the lake after spending ‘tens of thousands’ on research.
He claimed they allocated an initial sum of £50,000 to help maintain the lake and planned to add an annual contribution to ensure maintenance was continuing, but that when the Conservative council was voted in in 2011, the funding was put into something else.
Cllr Chichester-Miles has said he ‘politely disagrees’ with Cllr Donald’s claim and that he believes that money was put aside as part of Heritage Lottery Fund application which failed.
He added that even if the money had been there the council have been put under increased pressure after facing cuts from central government and trying to keep their vow to ensure there is a minimal increase to council tax.
Cllr Chichester-Miles added: “Any money set aside for the park has been spent on the park, not on paperclips and cocktails for Cllr Daly [council leader].”
He continued: “There has never been a specific lake budget but possibly there should be. There’s no point doing that until we have dealt with the cause first.”
The council continue to draw up plans and work with the Environment Agency on a long-term plan which involves increasing water flow on the River Ver.
They are also adding more aquatic plants, stone wall gabion baskets and even considering another island to help oxygenate the water.
Cllr Chichester Miles added: “We want to do something meaningful with the lake that’s going to be sustainable. We could dredge the whole lake but the duck poo will come back sooner or later.”
The council has also submitted a new application to the Heritage Lottery Fund with hopes that they might be accepted given the critical condition of the lake.