‘Poor decisions’ made things much worse, claims Stockport Council leader as SSK’s £4.7million debt unravels

Exclusive by John Paul Shammas

The leader of Stockport Council has revealed exactly how the council-owned company SSK accumulated its £4.7million deficit in an exclusive interview with MM.

Yesterday, MM reported that the investigation into SSK found no evidence of fraud, and Stockport Council leader Sue Derbyshire says the reality of the situation is ‘much messier’.

SSK provide school meals, bin collection and environmental services alongside various other facilities, however it appears that Streetscene, which accounts for 25% of the company, is where the cumulative deficit has arose.

The council leader, who is also Stockport’s Executive Member for Policy, Reform and Finance, told MM: “It would be neat if there was a conspiracy or single mastermind behind the problem but the reality is much messier.

“A number of people made poor decisions based on incorrect assumptions and a cumulative deficit arose over a number of years.”

SSK was set up in 2006 by the Liberal Democrat-led council and also provide private work external from the council, but its ability to do so has been damaged by its balance sheet, alongside the negative publicity.

She added: “In Streetscene, there was a very unusual and unhelpful approach to record keeping and matching up work ordered by the council to the cost incurred in carrying it out.

“Costs were poorly understood so the council was paying too little for work carried out… and more work was done by SSK operatives than had been budgeted for.

“Because of the record keeping this was not seen by the council or the auditors as it was within large amounts of work in progress and accruals shown in SSK accounts, where it was expected that the money would be paid in the next financial year.”

The final stages of the investigation are hoping to be concluded by the end of the month.

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