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Spelthorne's property development accountability driven by Lib Dem

February 9, 2021 2:31 PM

Spelthorne Liberal Democrats £1b property gamble by Tories ()For years, Spelthorne lacked transparency about its £billion gamble

Spelthorne councillors have taken a major step towards improving transparency and accountability with the publication of a report into how property developments and the commercial property portfolio are managed.

A cross-party Task Group has drawn up a number of recommendations that will completely change the way projects are managed, with wide-ranging proposals to make sure what the Council does is in the best interests of residents.

Cllr Lawrence Nichols, the Lib Dem Chair of the Audit Committee, drew on his professional experience of project management in both public and private sectors in proposing setting up a new Programme Board to oversee and monitor Council developments. All projects will be required to consult widely at the early stages before detailed plans are created. Formal project governance will be introduced with councillors monitoring progress and with schemes not going forward without proper scrutiny and authorisation.

Cllr Lawrence Nichols, a member of the Task Group, said "This is a significant change that will mean that residents and councillors get a real say in the housing developments that are planned by the Council. The Task Group looked at the existing approach and we found that there were significant problems that we could not allow to continue. The Council plans to invest over £300m is housing and regeneration and there needs to be a proper system of governance and accountability. The Council embarked on this programme of development without putting in place a governance regime that matches the level of expenditure, and this report sets out a way to address this deficit."

Liberal Democrats believe that it is essential that there is transparency and accountability for the spending of all public money. After over 40 years in power, the Conservative administration had become so used to acting without proper scrutiny that they had forgotten that they are accountable to residents.

The report highlighted two developments that had glaring failures of governance:
The Ceaser Court development in Lower Sunbury was completely restructured without any record of who authorised the scheme changes and without the additional costs being sanctioned.
Plans for the Oast House site in Staines were created without any public consultation and over £1m has been spent working up plans that do not accord with the original Cabinet approval.
In January the Council voted to review six of the Council's proposed developments to make sure that what is planned reflects the best interests of residents. Liberal Democrat councillors are working to make sure that this happens in an open way with genuine opportunities for the public to contribute and not just another box-ticking exercise.

Cllr Nichols added "This is about competence. As a Council, we must put in place a more professional approach to the way that public money is spent and never again allow projects to progress without proper oversight and democratic control."

This report was drafted in December but can only now be released due to delays in the council. We are keen that local residents are a part of defining the details and are a part of how we proceed. Lib Dems have always believed this needs to be a public document.
http://spelthornelibdems.org.uk/en/document/review-of-spelthorne-borough-council-s-developments-and-investments-and-proposed-programme-board

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