This article just in from Peter Kent Baguley (pictured):
Transparency dribbles out just in time for the referendum
In June 2007 Full Council, misguidedly in my view, voted in favour of selling the Council's share in the Britannia stadium, home of Stoke City football club, for a mere £4.5m cash plus £0.5m to be devoted to "community benefits". At no time was there the slightest hint that the cash would not be paid in full immediately the deal was signed. No hint in the officer's report to Full Council; no hint in any verbal clarifications and justifications from various officers; no hint from the Elected Mayor nor from any of his so-called cabinet members.
A year later, rumours develop to suggest that in fact the full payment has not been received but that payment would be extended over three years. A search of all Executive meetings since June 2007 has revealed no reference to the deal. The decision of Full Council, however, has certainly been corrupted by stealth through secrecy, so typical of this Labour elected mayor system in the City.
Today, finally, all is made clear. The man himself responsible for the extended payment admitted his role in the sorry, sordid saga. So-called cabinet member Cllr Roger Ibbs, leader of the Tory group, if not the Labour-Tory-Lib Dem coalition which has kept the lame duck elected mayor afloat, revealed today that he did in fact sign the legal agreement which allowed the extended payment, interest free.
Cllr Ibbs expressed surprise that the agreement in fact approved the extended payment! Why? After all, he had signed the agreement so surely he had read it before approving it? Well, er no, in fact he hadn't read it he said since it was "this thick" gesturing that the document consisted of more than one page. Self-justificaton reached towards the fact that, apparently, neither the legal officer, Gerry Clarke, nor the then Council Manager / Chief Executive Officer, Steve Robinson, explained what the agreement contained!
So, a responsible Councillor, member of the so-called cabinet that carries a £9,000 a year allowance, would have us believe that is how he exercises that responsibility. If we believe that explanation, then I am sure many a member of the Council Tax public will be more than a little perturbed; if we choose not to believe the explanation, we would surely be implying the councillor's denial of the truth. I for one would not wish to suggest that.
We are left, therefore, with the extremely worrying fact that a councillor in a senior position failed to exercise due care and attention in the performance of a highly important part of his responsibilities.
We are also left with the worrying fact that if Cllr Ibbs did not know at the time he approved the deal that it granted a three year payment period, then who did know? Even more to the point, who introduced the idea?
This is but one example of the absence of transparency associated with the elected mayor system. It has bred a sickness at the core of the council, a sickness with a cavalier attitude towards open, honest, democratic processes. The sooner it is consigned to history the better.