Derby City Council

Despite Cllr Barker’s “personal interest” in the Market Hall project, there is still dithering and lack of vision

During the 11th November 2020 Cabinet meeting, Cllr Mick Barker, belatedly declared an interest in the Market Hall refurbishment project; he was advised to do so by the Council’s Legal Officer. He pointed out that most people were aware that he is the President of the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) and :

“…they (NABMA) have been engaged in helping formulate the policy under the refurbishment issues. I have no financial interest and am advised that as long as I declare this I can still partake in the meeting”.

At the May 2020 Cabinet meeting when the Market Transformation project was previously discussed, including a direct reference to the involvement of NABMA, he didn’t declare his interest…but still partook in the meeting.

His statement suggests that NABMA have been “engaged” in formulating the policy – this is not entirely true.  It was a consultancy service, branded as “NABMA Market Place”. which, in reality, is provided by a separate company –  Market Place (Europe) Ltd.

Market Place (Europe) Ltd which, at 31 December 2018 ( latest accounts) had £1.5m in the bank, and net assets of £1m,  is 70% owned by Allan Hartwell Ltd which, in itself, is 100% owned by Allan Hartwell and who is also a Board Member of NABMA, and colleague of Cllr Barker.

Cllr Barker (left) presenting a NABMA award to Allan Hartwell Photo Credit : David Preston

In the May 2020 Cabinet minutes it was reported:

“4.10 –  Market experts from the National Association of British Market Authorities (Market Place Management) have been appointed to develop proposals for the new Market Hall. This includes: a vision for the new Market Hall, input to the detailed design of Phase 2 and an options assessment and advice for the future operation of the market. This work has informed the project brief set out in this report.”

Market Place Management Ltd is a separate company from Market Place Europe Ltd – 51% owned by Allan Hartwell, 14% Maryjane Hartwell and 35% Nicholas Rhodes. £355k in the bank, with net assets of £149k as at December 2018. The company declared that it had no employees.  Market Place Management were paid £66548, by Derby City Council, for their “expert” services on 18th August 2020.

What did the Council get for the £66548?

3 months after paying the bill to Cllr Barker’s colleagues for expert advice, the Leader, Cllr Poulter was very reticent at the Cabinet Meeting in November, to articulate the vision, or indeed, any notion of what the City would see for the additional £10m of capital cost. Cllr Poulter stated that the Council was still “working with partners” on the full details of the Transformation work.  Just a few minutes before Poulter had explained that the Council was awaiting the result’s of its bid to the Government’s “Future High Street Fund”.

The Council’s Future High Street Fund bid was for £23.7m across a range of projects in the City. Unfortunately, the Council was advised in late December 2020, that just £15m would be allocated to Derby. The decision will need to be made as to how this will be used, although the Govt website states:

“Derby City Centre, St Peters Cross – £15,034,398”

Comment

For a Council that claims to be “Open and Transparent”, its behaviour is, by any standards, very opaque. The Leader should be excited by the vision for the Market Hall, and promote it at any opportunity.  The only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is no vision, no plans for the transformation of the Market Place, and that, once again, the Tory Leadership is dithering.

The fact that Cllr Barker had to be “advised” to declare an interest in a project where he clearly has personal involvement, illustrates something of the environment in which this Council now operates.

  • He should have made it clear that NABMA weren’t “helping” in this process, but a separate company, owned and controlled by his NABMA Board colleague, Allan Hartwell, was charging the Council £67k for the privilege. There is no evidence of competitive tendering ( 3 quotes) taking place before Market Place Europe Ltd were engaged in “helping” the Council.
  • The same colleague, and company, now has the contract to manage and promote Derby’s Christmas Market Offer.

The Cabinet will now need to make a decision as to how to allocate the £15m Future High Street Fund. If it is not to the Market Hall Transformation, then Phase 2 will need to seek, either, grant funding from elsewhere, or through borrowing. In both cases the 3rd parties will need to know more detail about the vision for the Hall than the general “gloss” in the public domain.

At present the only person seemingly making any money out of this project is Cllr Barker’s NABMA colleague.

 

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