New Bermondsey CPO
The Chair stated that he was concerned that Business Panel’s December referral had not been considered at the next available Mayor and Cabinet meeting which took place on 11 January 2017, and has not been put on the Mayor and Cabinet agenda on the 8 February 2017. The Chair asked the Principal Lawyer to update Panel Members on their September Call-In and December referral to Mayor and Cabinet.
The Principal Lawyer said a confidential document restricted to members had been circulated. This document sets out the present position on this CPO. She added that there would be a review, once this had been completed then any fresh decision would be made by the Cabinet. This would be subject to the usual Scrutiny process of call-in.
Councillor Curran raised concerns about the process, highlighting that Panel Members had been sent a document which they have been told they should keep private, and they had also been told how the next stage would proceed. He added that a QC had been paid a lot of money to give this advice. Councillor Curran said various statements had been made by sections of the Cabinet and the Mayor, even though there had not been a formal meeting which would lead to a decision. He said the public had been told the CPO had been stopped but in reality this was not the case.
The Chair said a legal decision was made by the Cabinet in September which led to a Call-In by Business Panel. The Chair said Business Panel were still awaiting the decision on their Call-In. He added that he was concerned that Panel Members have now being told there had been various comments about New Bermondsey, but this should not be discussed. The Principal Lawyer said she was sorry she could not advise on this issue as she had not taken part in any previous discussion on the item. She could only reveal what she had said earlier. She added that she would pass on Panel Members’ comments to the Head of Law.
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Councillor Mallory said although he had not seen the legal statement that had been circulated to Members he could state that to his knowledge any public statement should constitute a legal position. He added that he was aware that an Independent Inquiry had been requested, and he would request that full Council has a view on this and Business Panel have an input in drafting the Terms of Reference for the Independent Inquiry. Councillor Mallory stated that
it was important to have openness with this Inquiry as he was concerned that the Council’s reputation was at stake. Panel Members agreed to refer this request to Mayor and Cabinet.
The Chair stated that Panel Members’ request for a review of the process and legal advice for the Panel had both been refused. Councillor Muldoon said when he saw the statement from a Cabinet Member his first question was whether a Mayor and Cabinet meeting had taken place, as he was not aware a notice had been sent out.
The Chair asked the Principal Lawyer to find out whether following a decision of Mayor and Cabinet and a subsequent Call-In the decision would lapse after a given time. The Chair asked whether there was a deadline for Call-Ins to be considered. The Principal Lawyer said she would get back to the Chair with an answer. Councillor Handley stated that Millwall does not think a decision on the CPO had been made. He added that a decision should be made formally. Councillor Curran said this was unfair to residents as they need to have a decision soon, and an official decision needed to be made.
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Councillor Mallory said one of the Trustees of the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation had resigned and Panel Members would like to know why. The Chair asked the Principal Lawyer whether officers had carried out any due diligence assessment as the Council had pledged £.5m towards this project. The Chair further mentioned that there were 3 issues in their last referral to Mayor and Cabinet that were not related to the CPO that Panel Members would like addressed, and this would be included in the referral.
Business Panel agreed to make the following request and comments to Mayor and Cabinet.
RESOLVED that Mayor and Cabinet be requested to:
i. ask officers to respond to correspondence received from Eversheds and Shoosmiths.
ii. ask officers to ensure that all Housing Action Zone bid documents are made available to Scrutiny Members, and a redacted copy made available to the public.
iii. ask officers to ensure that the Section 106 Agreement is reviewed by Members of the Strategic Planning Committee.
iv. notes that Business Panel remains unconvinced by the reported results of the investigation into the Lambeth Smith Hampton documents.
Business Panel also believed the Independent Inquiry into the CPO process and the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry should be overseen by full Council.