Regular readers will recall that we submitted questions about the Shapley Heath debacle to last week’s Council meeting. The Council decided to censor the questions saying that they “appear to rehearse matters that have already been put to the council within the last 6 months”. That excuse was of course complete nonsense because last week was the first time questions could have been asked about the Shapley Heath Audit Report. When the agenda item came up, they denied that any questions had been asked. This is clearly a lie. Whoever forced the Committee Services official to lie should hang their head in shame.
Points of Order Raised
Councillor Spencer Farmer immediately raised two Points of Order. The first pointed out that the questions asked did not fall foul of the rules and should therefore have been allowed. The second pointed out that according to the Constitution, all questions should be published regardless of whether they were disallowed. The JCX gave a weak defence of the Council’s position. Under pressure, he had to concede that the questions did in fact exist and would be published with the minutes of the meeting.
That’s quite a transition. Within a few minutes they went from claiming no questions had been asked to agreeing the non-existent questions would be published with the minutes. They could even be asked again at the November meeting. It is now over a week since the meeting and the minutes have still not been published.
[Update:] The draft minutes have now been released. They wrongly attribute the Points of Order raised to Councillor Dr Crampton not to Councillor Farmer. They can’t get the minutes right even when they have a video of the whole meeting.[/Update]
Of course, they haven’t actually answered the Shapley Heath questions.
It is obvious the Council is running scared. They are too frightened to even acknowledge the existence of questions that highlighted the
lies told misleading statements given at July Council and September Cabinet. For a Cabinet anxious to be seen to be not marking its own homework, this is terrible optics. Joseph Stalin would be proud.
In lieu of the minutes, here is a video of the relevant exchange.
Letter Highlighting Censorship of Shapley Heath Questions
What’s even stranger is that all Councillors and both JCXs knew of the existence of the questions. We sent an email to all Councillors informing them of the censorship of the questions and added an attachment containing the questions. So, this wasn’t some rogue officer making a mistake. It was a deliberate cover-up by senior officers and the Cabinet.
Here is the letter:
I attach the questions I submitted for this week’s Council meeting. They have been rejected because they “appear to rehearse matters that have already been put to the council within the last 6 months”. However, the Shapley Heath Audit Report was only released to the public in July, after the deadline for public questions to the July Council meeting. Accordingly, this is the first time members of the public have been able to ask questions about the report and the statements made about it by Cabinet members. So, either the Officers have been “got at” or they have an even weaker grasp on reality than previously thought.
It is clear Cabinet members have been trying to denigrate, minimise and cover up the devastating findings of TIAA’s Audit Report. The Council Leader has falsely claimed that the Audit Work took place before it was even commissioned. From his statements, the Leader has no particular expertise in Project Management, yet this did not stop him from declaring arrogantly that he did not accept the findings of TIAA’s comprehensive, fact-checked report.
The Portfolio Holder for Place falsely claimed that the project had met its primary objective even though it had not achieved a single milestone and had certainly not achieved the objectives of establishing “a vision for a Garden Community and evidence whether such a vision is both viable and deliverable”. Moreover, we are no further towards understanding when they found out that the Government had stopped funding the project and how much more public money they squandered after being told. Nor do we know who took the decision to continue spending without recourse to the Opportunity Board.
The portfolio holder for Finance brushed off questions about obvious budgeting and reporting irregularities surrounding the project. At least one of his answers was obviously false at the time. Apparently he took no steps to investigate, despite having prima facie evidence handed to him on a plate.
What we have here is an absolute catastrophe of Project Management, Governance, Risk Management, Financial Control and above all, Leadership. The TIAA report makes that clear. Now the Cabinet are too cowardly to answer questions about it. If the public are not allowed to hold them to account, you must step up to the plate. We cannot have a situation where over £800K of public money is poured down the drain, nothing of substance is delivered, questions cannot be asked and nobody is accountable.