Saturday, November 08, 2008

This is Madness...

In February 2006, a council source leaked a confidential cabinet agenda to us which showed that this council were going to commit public money to being spent on Persimmons' legal and consultancy fees. The then coalition cabinet were horrified because this document showed the lengths that this council were prepared to go to just to keep and I quote "Persimmons' confidence". I remember attending the cabinet meeting for which that leaked agenda had been for and laughing to myself as the then cabinet member Glynn Nightingale on one hand condemned the irresponsibility of the person who leaked the document to us, but then on the other hand tried to convince people, especially the press who were in attendance, that the council had nothing to hide.

I had to laugh to myself when Glynn Nightingale made that statement. The massive contradiction in what he had said, was that if the person who had leaked us the document hadnt done so, then no-one, apart from the cabinet and officers, would have ever known that this council who had a massive financial black hole in their budget, were committing public money to being spent on the legal and consultancy fees of the richest builder in the country. The cabinet and officers would have never said anything to anyone and no-one to this day, would have known anything about it. So much for having nothing to hide. But he had to say that because they and their willingness to bend over backwards just to keep Persimmon on board, had been exposed.

It makes me laugh when you see the now leader of the council George Dunning, saying that the council have to go with Persimmon because of the development agreement being signed just two days before the local elections last year, because as this leaked document from 2006 proves, the council, in using public money to pay for Persimmons' fees, were doing all they could to tie us to them long before any development agreement was ever signed. As one architect and a planner from London told me, the council being prepared to do this and in secret, until we were informed, was and I quote, "Dodgy".

Also contained within that leaked document was a part that said that if the funding to turn the Mungle Jungle into an Extreme Sports centre wasn't found, then Persimmon Homes themselves would pay £60,000 towards the compulsory purchase of the Mungle Jungle. Not only did this show that the council had little belief that any funding for such a facility would ever be found, it also showed their willingness to let Persimmon pay for the compulsory purchase of this building and flatten it and presumably have the option to then build more houses upon it.

I started the campaign against this housing scheme in August 2004. At that time everything ecconomically was "rosy in the garden". New houses were springing up all over the place, banks were lending money like there was no tomorrow, mortgages were ten a penny and lots of money seemed to be readily available. And yet, even set against this booming backdrop, the council and the owners of the Mungle Jungle still could not attract any funding for the Extreme Sports centre from either the private or public sector.
Now we are in Recession. The housing market is stagnant. No-one can afford a mortgage, repossesions are increasing daily, money is in short supply, redundancy is affecting many people around the country, banks and other institutions aren't lending money to anyone and the IMF have declared just this week, that this is just the start and that this country will be hit more than any other country in the world by the recession that we are going into.

In 2006, the MP Vera Baird told Charles Davis, Malcolm Baxtrem and myself, that the council were thinking of giving the owners of the Mungle Jungles lease, Enterprise West, a staggering 125 years lease as a way of trying to get someone, anyone, to give them the money that they needed in order to turn the Mungle Jungle into this Extreme Sports Centre. She told us at that meeting that she had said to the then Project Manager for the scheme Ian Hopley, that it didnt matter how long they extended their lease for, no-one was going to give them the amounts of money that they needed to turn it into such a facility.

So bearing all of this in mind, why is the council as part of their forward plan which will come before the cabinet on the 20th January 2009, now reccomending that Enterprise West should have their lease extended for 125 years? If Enterprise West and their partners in this folly the council, couldn't attract any funding for the extreme sports centre, if they could not secure any interest from anyone when things were booming, then how on earth do they think that they are going to be able to do this now that we are going to be hit worst by the recession that we have already started to slide into? If the MP herself could see that no matter how long the lease was extended for it still wouldn't attract any interest, then why do elements of this council believe that now we are in recession in 2008, they will be able to?

Are the people who are proposing this, the officers, the same people who refused to pay any heed to the warnings that were being given about the Icelandic banks, that consequently have cost the rate payers of this borough £6,000,000 as aresult of these people not withdrawing our money from them before they went under?

The ineptitude of these people, the shortsightedness of these people is absolutely staggering! Enterprise West must be rubbing their hands together with delight, just waiting for the day that the eventuality that they can all see ( The Extreme Sports Centre will never happen) finally happens and this council are forced to buy back the lease from Enterprise West. Once again, how much public money will be wasted by buying back the lease from Enterprise West when their futile efforts to secure funding for a facility that just isn't going to happen, are over.

Or are we supposed to let them try for ever and a day to gain funding? If what George Dunning has said this week in the press is correct, then work is going to begin next April. So how much longer are Persimmon going to wait for them to raise the cash? They were prepared to pay £60,000 to CPO the Mungle Jungle because they knew back in 2006 that Enterprise West would never be able to raise the finance. If they were, why would Persimmon even suggest such a thing? But if the council extend their lease for 125 years, then theres no way that Persimmon would pay the kinds of money that it would cost to reimburse EW for the lease that they had been given and so it will be the public of Redcar and Cleveland who foot the bill.

This is absolute madness and must be stopped. This is our money that is being squandered by inept people with their own agenda, who rather than having the courage to admit what everyone else can see, that this scheme and their game is over, are trying to press ahead to save their own faces and ultimately their jobs.

This squandering of public money and this vanity has to stop and it has to stop now.

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