Derby City Council

Derby Tories rush through major decisions prior to Elections – avoiding scrutiny

In what seems like pre-election panic, Derby City Council’s Tory administration are rushing through 2 significant decisions prior to Polling Day on the 6th May, by-passing any form of public scrutiny.

Becketwell Performance Arena

St James’ Securities Ltd have proposed a new Performance Venue which will cost the Council £45m; the operation will require an on-going subsidy from the Council Tax. When this project was first aired at the Cabinet meeting in July 2020, the Leader, Cllr Poulter committed to the Labour Group leader, Cllr Shanker, that when more detail became available, including the business case, it would be brought back to the Cabinet meeting – this would facilitate full Scrutiny by opposition Cllrs.

Previous article (July 2020) : Becketwell Arena – vague “early doors” plans and a poor business case. Why is the Tory Council shy about scrutiny?

July 2020 Cabinet Meeting – Cllr Poulter confirms a commitment to Cllr Shanker that the business case and proposal for the Becketwell Arena will be subject to Scrutiny prior to a contract being signed. This was re-iterated in the March 2021 Cabinet Meeting.

This has not happened!

In an open letter, dated 20th April 2021, from Cllr Shanker to the Strategic Director – Communities and Place, Rachel North, he states:

“I write to you as the Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) as I am led to believe the internal Council Project Management Office Board (PMOB) is to meet on Thursday 22nd April for you to sign off this project and commit Derby City Council to over £45m in expenditure for a project that is still in the very early conceptual stages…”

“Committing the Council to this project at this stage without understanding the total cost of acquisition, without confirming our requirements and the scope to be delivered, without due scrutiny of the financial costings and without scrutiny or even sight of the details of the forward funding agreement by members is, in my opinion and I believe the vast majority of Derby’s residents, another reckless act at this stage of such an important project. We must not rush such a critical decision at this stage. I sincerely hope that there is no undue pressure being applied to do so”

The letter was also forwarded to Cllr M Holmes ( Cabinet Member for Regeneration)

Previous article (March 2021) : Becketwell Performance Venue: subsidy could require 1.5% Council Tax increase

Moorways Sport Stadium

The operation of the new £42m, Council funded, Moorways swimming pool, which will open in Spring 2022, is being outsourced to a 3rd Party Leisure contractor. That policy has already been agreed with the tendering process ongoing.

A late Cabinet Member meeting has been scheduled for 28th April 2021 to receive a report from Rachel North ( see above) to include in that outsourcing the adjacent Moorways Sports Stadium this privatising the entire “Moorways Sports Village”

There will be no opportunity for this to be subject to scrutiny.

Comment

There is no declared compelling urgency behind these rushed decisions – the project timescales don’t demand them. A responsible administration wouldn’t expedite decisions just a few weeks before Council elections, especially one that had no majority or popular mandate.

There is only one reason why this is happening.

The Tory administration expects that it will lose power following the elections in May, it wants to secure some form of legacy for the City, and it knows the plans will crumble under informed scrutiny. It wouldn’t be a surprise to discover that opaque commitments have already been made to 3rd Parties and that the Council has “backed itself into a corner” forcing this questionable behaviour.

3 replies »

  1. Derby Athletic Club raised £50,000 in 1988 having been approached by Derby City Council to help build an athletics legacy for the city. The club still has 20 years to run on its 50 year lease of the clubhouse and offices which includes a shared use agreement of the car park and surrounding grass areas.

    Derby Athletic Club has maintained a good working relationship with the staff on site and their direct managerial staff who have continued working in the vein of the original agreement 30 years ago. It was shock to all concerned at the club that senior officers at the council had recommended that the Moorways Stadium was added to the selling off of the £42m Leisure Pool that has yet to be opened.

    Reasons given for the adding of the Moorways Stadium to this private sector sale are tenuous, to say the least and viewed as invalid by experts in the field. The covert process chosen has deliberately avoided the scrutiny (possibly unlawfully) that these significant community decisions are normally reasonably entitled to.

    Whilst we hope there is still wisdom and commitment in the council to honour the original working relationships and community agreements, to reverse the decision taken (for very small financial reasons), it is doubtless to say whatever the outcomes, Derby Athletic Club will continue to work tirelessly providing the best athletics opportunity for the community of Derby as it has since 1887.

    Karl Ponty
    Chair of Derby Ahletic Club

  2. According to the Council (1) it „made sense” to combine the pool and outdoor facilities due to shared car park and access (2) an urgent was needed to avoid delaying timescales, yet they also asserted in the same meeting they’ve been considering this for some time.

    The pool and Moorways only share common parking and access because that’s how the Council designed the new Pool, BUT the outdoor facilities were not included in the feasibility study. So it is hardly a compelling case to proceed in this way, and smacks of incompetence.

    The claim an urgent decision was required to protect the timescale was also misleading, if not disingenuous. The Council only published the call for competition – effectively advertising the contract for potential bidders to register interest the day after the meeting. The advert is for Leisure Management and Operation of Pool and Stadium. The Public Contracts Regulations, which require such an advert, do not preclude an option/flexibility being incorporated at this stage, such as Management of Pool and potentially including Stadium – allowing ample time for a more considered decision, and full scrutiny, an then publishing an amendment to confirm whether the Stadium was to be included or not, without prejudcing timescale. It would have no materiał affect on potential bidders, who would likely be the same companies and show the same interest irrespective.

    It all smacks of incompetence, half baked and incomplete strategies, and political manouvering to avoid scrutiny and make it difficult for the next Administration.

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