Here’s the answers to Ashley Fox’s questions to Cabinet on Thursday regarding the Railway Path land sell-off. The Blogger’s comments are in red.
It’s certainly a fascinating insight into the quality of governance we’re getting:
Questions from Councillor Ashley Fox to Councillor Rosalie Walker, Cabinet Member for Culture and Healthy Communities.
Q1. Does the Cabinet Member agree with me that the Council should always consult with local residents before agreeing to the sale or lease of precious green space?
Q1 Reply – The Council is under a statutory obligation to advertise the sale of any area of open space over which the public has access. Additional public consultation is proposed under the parks and green spaces strategy, and this has been arranged in regards to the Chocolate Factory.
Note the paste tense here. A consultation “has been arranged”. Does anyone know any details about this consultation? Like who’s doing it, who’s being consulted and, maybe, when, where and how it’s happening? A consultation has been promised since early September, now it’s been arranged. But where the hell is it?
Q2 Does the Cabinet Member agree with me that the Council’s recent sale of parts of the embankment of the Bristol-Bath Railway Path threatens to damage the character of one of the country’s finest cycling routes in an Authority now designated a “Cycling City”?
Q2 Reply – No sale has taken place. the local planning authority will consider whether the development would damage the character of the Bristol to Bath cycling route. I would remind you of the Council motion to protect the cycle path agreed earlier this year.
“No sale has taken place”? Weasel words because an “in-principle” sale has taken place. It’s also remarkable that the Executive Member directly responsible for protecting our parks and ensuring that the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy is properly adhered to has handed this responsibility to the local planning authority. Talk about washing your hands of it. It is not – and never has been – the job of the local planning authority to decide whether park land should be sold. It is Ms Walker’s job. Why doesn’t she do it? Is she mad? Why bother going to the effort of getting elected, getting a seat in the cabinet, gaining a little bit of power and influence and then abdicating all responsibility?
Q3 Does the Cabinet Member agree with me that the apparent informal and unrecorded manner in which this property sale was transacted could leave the Council open to accusations of impropriety or favouritism?
Q3 reply – See answer to Q2 above.
What see the answer that doesn’t answer the question? Is this a joke? An in-principle agreement has been reached to sell the Railway Path land to a local property developer. The agreement is on public record as being as being transacted in an “informal and unrecorded manner” over the phone and through, apparently, unminuted meetings. The question, then, still stands: “could [this in-principle transaction] leave the Council open to accusations of impropriety or favouritism?”
Questions from Councillor Ashley Fox to Councillor John Bees, Cabinet Member for Transformation & Resources
Q1. Does the Cabinet Member agree with me that all decisions and meetings relating to the sale or disposal of land held by the Council should be open, properly recorded and fully transparent?
Q1 reply – There are procedures and protocols by which these matters are undertaken.
Good. Care to explain more? Like what they are and where we might find them?
Q2 Does the Cabinet Member agree with me that the apparent manner in which the recent sale of parts of the embankment of the Bristol-Bath Railway Path was transacted warrants further investigation?
Q2 reply – See answers to questions above. the Head of Legal Services has reviewed the decision making process and is satisfied that the Strategic Director has acted within his delegated powers.
The answers above do not discuss whether there’s a need for an investigation here or not. Mainly because that’s not the question those answers are addressing. But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one and assume that the answer is “no”. No further investigation is warranted. On the subject of the Head of Legal Services “review”, I wonder, is it publicly available? And let’s hope he was given all the information he should have been by Head of Planning, David Bishop, and any other officers or all that egg flying around near faces could get a bit messy couldn’t it?
Q3. Does the Cabinet Member agree with me that it is important to ascertain the reason for conducting aspects of this transaction without a formal record or minutes taken at key meetings held?
Q3 reply – See answer to Q2.
That’s a no then. Helen Holland’s administration sees no need for formal record or minute taking at key meetings.
Q4. Will the Cabinet Member undertake to remind all Officers engaged in the disposal of Council-owned assets of the importance of the principle of Integrity (within the Code of Conduct for Employees) that “holders of public office must not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties”?
Q4 reply – I am sure officers are fully aware of their obligations in this regard.
Yep. And the pigs will be cruising at an altitude of 30,000 feet and today’s inflight movie is ‘Clueless’.
Regardless of your views on the Railway Path sell-off, is this pathetic level of oversight of our affairs, land and money really good enough?