Fifteen Conservative councillors signed official forms to call-in the decision to award the operator contract for the Fairfield Halls, a move which some fear might delay the appointment process, and others have described as petty political point-scoring.
The matter will be discussed at next Wednesday’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee meeting at the Town Hall, chaired by Labour’s Sean Fitzsimons.
The call-in notice was submitted on Saturday, in the middle of the Bank Holiday weekend. The Tories say that they are unhappy at the lack of information about the appointment process.
Helen Pollard, a Fairfield ward councillor, submitted the call-in form, which was also signed by Jason Cummings, Jeet Bains, James Thompson, Jan Buttinger, Dudley Mead, Donald Speakman, Chris Wright, Tim Pollard (the leader of the Conservative group on the council), Andy Stranack, Mario Creatura, Yvette Hopley, Lynne Hale, Maria Gatland and Margaret Mead.
Two of the signatories are former trustees of the Fairfield Halls, from a period when it was receiving a £1million a year subsidy from the council. Three of the others either work, or have worked, on the publicly funded staff of Conservative MPs Chris Philp and Gavin Barwell.
The reasons stated for the call-in were that, “This decision is not open and transparent as there has been no opportunity for questions to be raised by opposition members or the public. Without scrutiny it is impossible to agree that local people will benefit as stated on page one of the paper, which links to the Community Strategy.
“Without full details available it is not possible to agree that the priority of liveability is being contributed to.”
In the agenda document distributed yesterday to announce the call-in, a council official reports that, “There were no requests for additional information to assist the Scrutiny and Overview Committee when considering the referral.”
Timothy Godfrey, Labour’s cabinet member for culture, has criticised the Tories on their past record on the arts in the borough, and accused them of “playing with Fairfield’s very bright future”.
The call-in may delay the contractual negotiations with BH Live, the south coast-based trust which runs the Bournemouth International Centre and which Inside Croydon reported yesterday had been selected to manage the Fairfield Halls. But next week’s meeting is thought unlikely to de-rail the negotiations altogether.
Fitzsimons, as the chair of Scrutiny, had made it clear that he intended to call-in the decision, but at what he considers to be a more appropriate timing, when the operator had been appointed, “so that the committee and public can scrutinise their proposals in public,” he said.
“I would hate to see this delayed due to party political point-scoring,” he told Inside Croydon last week, clearly anticipating another political stunt by the Conservatives.
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