JUST nine emails were exchanged between BCP Council officials and the government on the scrapped beach hut sell off plan over the seven months in which the proposal was taking shape.

The correspondence, obtained by the Daily Echo through a Freedom of Information request, shows the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), received one of the three reports by KPMG in April.

Opposition councillors did not get sight of this report, titled Commercialisation of Assets Bournemouth, which lists a range of options for the beach hut stock until it was made public in late August.

The document is dated February 2022 on its cover sheet, while the file name includes the date March 9, 2022.

The Daily Echo requested all written correspondence between BCP Council and the government department between January and August this year relating to the local authority’s proposed sell off through a special purpose vehicle and using the funds from this under flexible use of capital receipts regulations.

BCP Council’s response to this request included three letters from ministers, which have all been published by the Daily Echo previously.

There were five emails sent by chief finance officer Adam Richens to government civil servants and three emails sent to the council from the department.

One email was sent by local authority chief executive Graham Farrant – subject line ‘Article’ with the contents of the email being a link to the Daily Echo report in which council leader Cllr Drew Mellor first revealed borrowing the money needed to fund transformation through a capitalisation direction was being explored.

Bournemouth Echo: Graham Farrant, BCP Council chief executiveGraham Farrant, BCP Council chief executive

Asked if the council could confirm what other forms of correspondence took place on the beach hut subject, a spokesperson said: “Council officers have regular, scheduled contact with DLUHC on general matters.

“There is no further correspondence on council records specifically relating to the beach hut SPV, other than what has already been released.”

On the article link sent by Mr Farrant, the spokesperson said: “The chief executive was sharing relevant local coverage with DLUHC for their information.”

The letter sent by minister Kemi Badenoch on June 16 stated she had concerns around how the council was looking to use the flexible use of capital receipts direction by setting up a council-owned company to buy the beach huts and use this money to fund transformation of services.

Bournemouth Echo: Kemi Badenoch MPKemi Badenoch MP

Ms Badenoch confirmed on that date that department officials would be reviewing the rules and could make amendments to ensure they align with the intentions of the government.

The Daily Echo’s FOI reveals that a civil servant in the Local Government Finance Directorate warned of Ms Badenoch’s incoming correspondence on the morning of June 16.

In an email, Matt Hemsley, head of local government capital and accounting, wrote: “Minister Badenoch will be sending a letter to the council leader setting out that the proposed use of the direction is not in line with government’s intent, but recognising that it isn’t actually prohibited by the wording.

“However, we are going to look at the wording of the direction and potentially reissue to put further safeguards around its use.”

The other two minister letters were from Paul Scully, dated July 29, and Greg Clark, August 1, which torpedoed the council’s plans and forced the local authority to find alternative means to meet its financial pressures.

Bournemouth Echo: Greg Clark MPGreg Clark MP

An earlier email on June 12 from Mr Richens to Mr Hemsley says that Cllr Mellor had spoken to Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns who in turn had spoken to then levelling-up secretary Michael Gove who “promised to look into the matter”.

Mr Hemsley replied the following day saying he was aware of the communications but he did not have a “readout from ministers yet”.

Mr Burns told the Daily Echo he is not a member or representative of the council but in his time as an MP he has been and will continue to be an advocate for the community he serves, acting as a conduit for local authority leaders and ministers.

An email sent by Mr Richens on April 26 to DLUHC civil servants contained a link to the council’s budget report for 2022/23 and the February dated KPMG report.