Sheffield Games finance criticised

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AN OFFICIAL auditor's report into the World Student Games in Sheffield last night revealed 'serious shortcomings' over finances and the way official reports were presented to the city council.

Sheffield, which yesterday suffered a one-day strike by more than 8,000 workers, faces a loss of more than pounds 10m for staging the games, which cost pounds 147m. The city is also seriously in debt and having to come to terms with cutbacks of more than pounds 7.5m.

The official auditor's report shows that the games will cost the city millions of pounds more than originally expected and that the overspending will compound the council's 'serious financial difficulties'. The report says that the overspend can only be met by reducing jobs or services.

The auditor is particularly critical of individuals involved in the organisation of the games. He says that Ray Gridley, who was appointed in June 1990 to organise the games, did 'not fulfil the terms of his remit'.

His report also says the council's chief executive, Pamela Gordon, did not ensure 'compliance with the procedures for reporting financial and other progress'. Reporting procedures were 'poor in terms of their frequency, timing, format and content', he said.

Sheffield City Council took over responsibility for staging the games in June 1990 when the company which had been responsible previously stopped trading. The council was advised that unless it was prepared to reconsider its position on managing and financing the games there was little possibility of them going ahead.

The council had intended that there should be no cost to ratepayers with the expenditure being matched by income from grants, ticket sales, sponsorship and merchandising. In March 1991 it decided that while the objective of breaking even should be maintained, there should be a 'fallback position' in which the council's net contribution would be no greater than pounds 5m. But the deficit on the council's general fund was set provisionally in December 1991 at about pounds 10.4m. The final figure may be more than pounds 11.5m.

Ms Gordon said last night that disciplinary procedures would be considered. She said that she had no intention of resigning, and Mr Gridley was still working as director of housing for Sheffield.