Updated with amount of grant awarded on 28 March 2016.
As promised, I can now bring you the full story about the roof at 29 Dimond Street (Paul Sartori charity shop) Pembroke Dock which you, dear taxpayer, funded with a 70% grant. I am fortunate to have an aerial photograph of this roof which is reproduced below. The roof is divided into three sections which I have labelled A, B and C.
A is the roof to the main building which fronts on to Dimond Street.
B is the roof of a two storey extension in the backyard.
C covers a range of single-storey buildings. The roof, part of which can be seen in the lower right hand corner, is included in this.
Roofs B and C are over bedsits while A covers the three storey main building which has Paul Sartori’s charity shop on the ground floor and five bedsits on the first and second floors.
The five bedsits in the main building were constructed as part of an earlier project and are not directly relevant to the matter under consideration.
In all, the roof covers 218 sq m which is roughly divided 80: 40: 95 between A, B and C respectively.
And you paid 70% of the cost of slating the whole of the roof.
Ah! I hear you say, but there are no slates on C – and you would be right.
But that particular irregularity will have to wait its turn in the alphabetical queue.
With respect to A, we have to consult the council’s procedure manual which tells us which sections of the roof are eligible for grant aid and which are not:
External improvements to the facade [my emphasis] of the commercial property are eligible for grant funding (regardless of whether the floor space is residential commercial space). The rationale for this is that the improvements have an impact on the street scene and hence a contribution to increasing the footfall in the town centre. In a similar vein, the roof works on the street side elevation of the property would be eligible for grant funding (or depending on the situation of the building, any part of the roof that was having an influence/impact on the street scene.)
So the front leaf of roof A – the side that faces Dimond Street – would clearly be eligible for grant aid. Whether the back leaf also qualified would depend on whether it had any “influence/impact on the street scene”.
As it can only be seen from the backyard (accessible through a passage from Dimond Street) there seems to be a strong case for its exclusion, though not strong enough to prevent it being given a 70% grant worth £1,500 (see below).
However there can be no doubt about roofs B and C because they cover part of the building which is given over entirely to bedsits and have nothing to do with the commercial property whatsoever.
For the lowdown on that we must turn to the FAQ document produced by the council’s European Officer in response to my posts on this subject and presented to the audit committee on 23 September 2013:
As the report to the audit committee says:
“Given the publicity the CPGS has recently received, the European Manager has also prepared a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that was published on the Authority’s internet site on the 4th June 2013. The European Manager stated “The FAQs seek to explain and clarify aspects of the scheme where misunderstanding has led to unwarranted negative publicity.”
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PEMBROKE AND PEMBROKE DOCK COMMERCIAL PROPERTY GRANT SCHEME:
Q: Can this grant scheme fund work to residential as well as business properties?
A: No. This grant scheme is strictly only for commercial properties. [My emphasis.] Many properties in town centres are mixed use, often being in commercial use on the ground floor but in residential use on upper floors. In these cases no internal works in parts of the building used for (or intended to be used for) residential use will be funded by the grant. We will fund external works to upper floors even if they are in residential use if they help to improve the street scene, because this contributes to improving the look of the town centre for businesses.
Q: Has any property ever received a grant for flats or for a house of multiple occupation?
A: No, this has never happened through this grant scheme. Such works have always been ineligible. [My emphasis.] Sometimes property owners carry out residential works at the same time that builders are working on commercial parts of the building but this is entirely at their own cost. In fact the Council encourages this, in order to improve people’s accommodation, although we cannot and do not make any financial contribution to these costs.
That seems pretty clear to me, but it obviously wasn’t clear to the officer in the council’s European office who authorised, on your behalf, the payment of a 70% grant (£1,500) for section B of the roof.
And that brings us to C – it’s always best to keep the best to last.
My interest in this was first aroused last summer, when, in response to an FoI request, the council sent me the Bills of Quantities (prices redacted) and drawings for this project.
What I noticed was that this part of the roof was to be covered in fibreglass.
In addition, there was an item for fixing battens on top of the fibreglass roof and, when I checked the quantities for slating, I realised that this area was included.
So, I asked myself, why would someone want to screw slating battens onto a new, perfectly waterproof roof? Well, as you can see from the photograph above, they wouldn’t.
In any case, as any competent architect would know, it is not practicable to fix slates to a roof of less than 25 degree pitch – the wind blows the water up under the slates – and the pitch of roof C is somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees.
Interestingly, this batten and slate detail does not appear on the drawings submitted to building control presumably because the officers in that department would have fallen off their chairs laughing at the proposal to fix slates to a nearly-flat roof.
The only conclusion is that this was included as part of a scam to claim grant for work that was never intended to be carried out, though that doesn’t explain why someone in the European office signed it off and authorised grant payment of 70% (£3,599) for the non-existent slates.
In conclusion, you paid 70% of the cost of 218 sq metres of slating of which only 40 sq metres (the front part of the main roof) was eligible for grant.
Of the remaining 178 sq metres, all of which was in respect of residential development, 95 sq metres was never slated at all.
While on the subject of this roof I should also point out that you also paid 70% (£3,229) of the cost of those seven roof lights, which, as part of the residential development, the FAQ document tells us “have always been ineligible”.
In addition you paid 70% (£300) of the cost of the “new” lead work where this roof abuts the adjoining building, an example of which can be seen in the picture below.
Not to mention the 70% (£1,500) contribution you made to what must be the untidiest bit of slating in Pembrokeshire, which wasn’t anyway eligible for a grant because it is on the back of the roof and, therefore doesn’t influence/impact the street scene.
You also paid 70% (£500) of the cost of the demolition and rebuilding of the dormer window on the back of A which was never done.
And 40% (£3,500) of the cost of insulating the whole 218 sq meters of roof with 180 mm Celotex though, as that was entirely for the benefit of the residential development, it didn’t qualify for a grant at all.
In addition, building regulations would require the insulation to A to be installed during the earlier project when the five bedsits were constructed – two of them in the roof space.
It doesn’t need any great expertise to work out that fitting 180mm insulation into the sloping part of a roof constructed with 100mm rafters can be a problem.
Indeed, having carried out such an operation myself, I know it it cannot be done without taking down the sloping part of the ceiling and reconstructing it at a lower level.
Finally you also contributed £1,400 towards the cost of the removal and disposal of 94 sq m of asbestos sheeting from roof C which is over residential property and therefore isn’t eligible for grant aid.
Interestingly, both asbestos and insulation featured in Pugh’s now famous speech to council on December 12 last year: “The £21,000 grant for retail space included work such as asbestos removal, insulation, electrical work and work to renovate the walls and floors.”
He should have said that the grant for retail space went to pay for the conversion of these outbuildings into bedsits.
All in all, I make that £15,500 in irregular payments for the roof alone.
And I should add that an invoice for electrical work “to flats 1-4” for £9,800 (grant £3,920) was also charged to refurbishing retail space even though it was clear on the face of the document that it was for residential development.
And there’s much, much more.
Indeed, according to my calculations, some £40,000 was paid out in respect of work that was either ineligible, or simply not done.
And all this was approved for grant aid by someone in the council’s European Office, the head of which, Mr Gwyn Evans, had the cheek to suggest that I had misunderstood the workings of the Commercial Property Grant Scheme.
Five months after receiving all of the above information, and a good deal more, as part of my contribution to the council’s dossier, the police are still considering whether it is “appropriate” to conduct an investigation.
Update. Now, almost two years after being handed the detailed dossier by the council, the police are liaising with WEFO (Wales European Funding Office) on this “complex” case.