Monday, May 24, 2010

The whole issue descends into farce...

I did not think when I made my last entry on this site, that Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council could make themselves look any more contradictory than they have already made themselves look, not only over the issue of Coatham, but over the issue of discussing the options for Coatham at the cabinet meeting yesterday.

How wrong I was.

On Sunday night and then again on Monday morning, we were given another two different versions of what is going to happen and why, along with even more contradictory statements about what has already taken place regarding this scheme, from a senior councillor within the council and the head of regeneration council officer Ian Wardle.

On Sunday night at around 6.00pm, a senior councillor telephoned a member of our group and asked if he could come round to his house to talk. The councillor told the member of our group that the Coatham options section of the meeting had infact, been split into two. The options were going to be put forward at some time in the near future and then the confidential items of the Coatham options was going to be discussed at a cabinet meeting to be arranged at a later date and kept behind closed doors.

When quizzed about why any of it was being kept from the public, the councillor explained that there were confidential matters to sort out and discuss. But as our member pointed out that the councilor, in doing this, were actually going against their own constitution as there were no contracts involved in the options for Coatham because they were only options, and the Coatham scheme was dead and buried.

The councillor agreed that the Coatham scheme was indeed dead although he did say that Persimmon had expressed an interest to build on the car park at Majuba Road. However, he went onto say that the council had resisted this because the council had realised what an asset the car park is and that it was a 'jewel in the crown' as people from all over the country came to that car park to use the fabulous beach there.

Strange that he should make this comment when we have been saying this for nearly six years, and it was demonstrated to great effect in Craig Hornby's film " Coatham a common concern ", yet the council never once listened to us and ignored all the things we were saying about the car park being so vital to the town and to tourism here?

The councillor then went onto say that the council were prepared to meet with the small group of members of our group but that certain councillors weren't prepared to meet with me or John Wilkinson, a man who has done so much research and who has exposed so many facts about the disaster known as the Coatham Enclosure scheme. To this the member of our group told him that John had never been on the list to attend the meeting with the council anyway, but I on the other hand had started the campaign and led from the front all the way to victory in the Supreme Court and that there was no way that he, or anyone else, would meet the council without me being present.

I later said to the member of our group, that if it meant that a way forward could be charted then I would step aside, but he was insistant and said that we would not be divided by these people when we had already won in the Supreme Court and they were the ones who had been found to be wrong. He told me that he had told the senior councillor that I might have gotten up the noses of individuals within the council, but at the end of the day, all of the things that I and our group have said have been true and that the council should accept that.

The meeting finished with the councillor telling our member that he would be back in touch with him on Monday night.

As elected and paid members and officers of a local authority, it is incredible to think that they regard themselves as being so high and mighty? It is incredible to think that they can adopt such a lofty position when their failings have been exposed at every turn and ultimately they have been left with their reputation seriously damaged by the Supreme Courts unanimous ruling and the things that have been brought out into the public domain as a result of our six year campaign.

If Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness can sit round the table with Ian Paisley and laugh and discuss together when each of their communities had been murdering each other for decades, if the US and British governments can befriend Colnel Gadaffi when he has been behind murders that have been committed on British soil and around the world, then why do Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council think that they are above meeting just a normal resident who stood up for what he believed in and with the help of a large number of people, peacefully and democratically and within the law, defeated a councils and the countries largest developers, disastrous plans for his home town?

Once again, shame on them for displaying such arrogance.

But the best was to come on Monday morning.

For some time now, the same member of our group had been trying to contact the head of regeneration, Ian Wardle, to ask him certain questions about the scheme, to ask him when the common would be tidied up and more recently, to ask him about the Coatham part of todays cabinet meeting. This morning Mr Wardle called him. Bearing in mind we had already had four versions of what was happening at the meeting today, Mr Wardle MIRACULOUSLY OFFERED A FIFTH!!!

He told our member that the Coatham options section of the cabinet meeting wasn't now going to be discussed because it wasn't even going to be included!

He said that it wasn't going to be included because the papers for yesterdays cabinet meeting hadn't even been prepared because they hadn't had time? and he told our member that the Coatham options section was going to be discussed at a special cabinet meeting, in public, in approximately three weeks time?

Our member at this point, stopped him and told Mr Wardle that he had had a senior councillor in his house just 18 hours previous to him telephoning, and he had told him that the Coatham options section was being split into two and that part of it was going to be heard at a later date behind closed doors?

He also pointed out to Mr Wardle that another senior officer in his own department Alan Logan, had told him that it was going to be discussed behind closed doors and that it was to be that way because it wasn't in the best interests of the public for them to know. He also told him that as late as last week, the Gazettes political editor Sndy Mackenzie, had been informed by the council that the options for Coatham would be discussed but that they would be discussed in public?

Our member went onto tell Mr Wardle that was it any wonder that the public had such little trust in this council when even in defeat, secrecy and contradiction were so prominent and FIVE different versions had been offered, by different people within the council, about ONE subject?

I believe Mr Wardle was being economical with the truth.

If the papers for yesterdays meeting hadn't even been prepared, then why did George Dunning tell another member of our group in an email, that he had seen nothing confidential to discuss about Coatham, hence the issues for discussion were all on white papers? If the papers hadn't been prepared then why did it say in the councils agenda for the meeting, that the press and public were to be excluded and that the confidential papers were to follow?

Amazingly Mr Wardle, as the head of regeneration and a man whos salary would top approximately £100,000 pa, stated that he had no knowledge about any of the other statements that had been made about this subject? How can he not know about or be responsible for things that someone in his own department has already stated before him? How could these things differ so greatly? All Mr Wardle knew is that the options for Coatham now wouldn't even be a part of the meeting.

It is obvious after we have publicly demonstrated, step by step, every contradiction that these people have made, when we have issued a press release about this level of secrecy, that Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council started to sing the song to suit the tune and that they tried to do all they could to beat a hasty retreat from what had become a very 'hot' subject and were trying to give themselves a bit of breathing space to work out what to do next.

But thats not all.

When asked by our member where Persimmon Homes were in all of this, Mr Wardle told our member that because the development agreement had been rendered useless by the Supreme Courts decision, Persimmon were now no longer involved at any level. Our member, once again told Mr Wardle that his response was strange because it differed completely with what the senior councillor and cabinet member had told him just the night before?

He told Mr Wardle that according to the senior councillor, Persimmon had expressed not only an interest in building on the car park, they also had expressed an interest to build the new leisure centre and pool? Even though it went completely against what he had just said, Mr Wardle then admitted that Persimmon had expressed an interest in these things?

"But you have just said that they weren't in the picture anymore our member replied?" Mr Wardle prevaricated and failed to answer the question adequately.

Our member then went onto voice his disgust that Persimmon have made enough money out of the tax payers of this borough already when they were made 'project mangers' for the refurbishment of the boating lake. Mr Wardle insisted that the refurbishment of the boating lake was a seperate issue but our member once again tore his statements to shreds. He told Mr Wardle that the boating lake was initially part of the masterplan and that both Persimmon and Mcalpines were going to make a contribution to the £60,000 cost of carrying out the necessary work at that time. However, Persimmon had then been made project managers for this refurbishment, theirs and Mcalpines financial contribution to it ceased, Persimmon subcontracted the work to Hellens construction of Newcastle and suddenly, the cost of the refurbishment of the boating lake rocketed from £60,000, to nearly one million pounds. Persimmon would have probably made around £100,000 on the deal as project managers!

Once again, Mr Wardle was silenced.

Our member then asked Mr Wardle why the council spent £75,000 on surveys and plans for the leisure centre in December last year when the village green case was in the hands of the Supreme Court? Mr Wardle told him that they had done this because they had been told that they had a good chance of winning and that they hadn't wanted to waste any time progressing the scheme once they Supreme Court hearing had finished. So where are the plans asked our member? Mr Wardle expected him to believe that they hadn't been finished, SIX MONTHS after they were commissioned by the council and that no money had been paid yet?

It is obvious that the council are wriggling. It would appear that they are desperately looking to offer excuses, no matter how inplausable they may be, because they know that they seriously made an error of judgement here. They monitor this site and other things that we say in public and they know that we have brought this issue into the public domain. They know that they should not have committed public money to such a cost when it was non-refundable, when the village green issue hadn't even been heard by the Supreme Court and they are trying to cover their backs.

Their cynical attempts to conceal the truth in order to save their own skins over this issue, are as ridiculous as when Ian Hopley stated at the Information Tribunal in Newcastle last Novemeber, that on one hand the council did not know if a seadefence in Coatham was needed yet in the very same breath he said that a seadefence in Coatham was "crucial" to the scheme going ahead? He made such a ridiculous, contradictory statement in order to try and wriggle out of admitting the fact that if the scheme went ahead, this council was committed to spending millions of pounds of public money on a seadefence that was the sole responsibility of Persimmon Homes PLC and in so doing admitting the fact that the council had lied under the FOI act!

Mr Wardle told our member that at the special meeting to be held to discuss the options for Coatham, the options would be put forward and then they would be put out for public consultation with the usual procurement procedures being put into motion after that. However, our member pointed out that Mr Wardle had gotten things the wrong way round?

He pointed out to Mr Wardle that what is supposed to happen is that FIRST the council consults with the public, they then draw up options from that consultation and then discuss the best way forward with the cabinet. But when you look at it, how can we trust the council on this issue when after denying that Persimmon were hanging around in the background, Mr Wardle then admitted that they were? What is happening here is akin to the council and Persimmon homes being involved in Coatham a year before the major leisure scheme in Coatham, that somehow became a major housing scheme, was even advertised as a leisure scheme!

How could any involvement with Persimmon now be unbiased? As such they should have no involvement at all. If they are involved in any further procurement procedures for Coatham, as a house builder, major questions would have to be asked if they were given the contract to build a leisure centre and pool, presumably over and above leisure developers, especially in light of the scandal of the boating lake?

Our member told Mr Wardle that he himself had put forward suggestions for the area which involved the refurbishment of the Coatham Bowl and existing leisure centre. Once again, Mr Wardle was backwards in coming forwards with the truth. He told our member that with his background in construction, he knew that the Bowl was structurally unsound and that it had to come down because it wasn't cost effective to carry out work on it.

Upon being told this, that our member then told him that that was rubbish because he was in possession of a council report from just a couple of years ago, which showed that the Bowl and leisure centre weren't structurally unsound, that they only needed a new roof, a new kitchen, decorating and bringing up to date which at that time was going to cost £1,000,000. Taking inflation into account, this figure would have probably risen to £1,500,000 now.

But more than this common sense defeats Mr Wardles inane statement because when you think about it, if the Bowl and Leisure centre are structurally unsound and the council have known this for at least a couple of years, then why have they been happy to put peoples safety at risk and let people continue to use it?

When these facts were brought to Mr Wardles attention he told our member that he had not seen the council report?

How Convenient.

When asked why the council had not been over to cut the grass on the common and tidy it up and why thay hadnt put dog litter bins there, Mr Wardle said that the council didnt have the resources, but I was on the Stray on Thursaday and council workers were cutting the grass there and there were dog litter bins for people who were walking their dogs there?

Some individuals within our council are an absolute disgrace. If I have said this once, I have said it a thousand times. They deliberately misinform the public, they wriggle and they twist and make up far-fetched excuses when they are so blatantly caught out, they continually issue statements that contradict things that they have previously said and they try and cover their tracks and their undemocratic wrongdoing at at every possible opportunity.

The council have become a laughing stock amongst the legal profession. They have brought our council down into disrepute in tribunal after tribunal. They have had a neighbouring MP call for their investigation. They have been damned and downgraded by the audit commission. They have been found guilty of maladministration by the Ombudsman. They have lied to firms of solicitors in order to try and exhonerate themselves. They have lied under the Freedom of Information act too. They have had a unanimous ruling made against them by the highest court in this country.

Yet still, they exude such arrogance and contempt for the public, still they go uninvestigated.

How much longer can this be allowed to continue?

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?