Folkestone and Hythe District Council Slammed for Excluding Councillors from Otterpool Purchase Decision

June 13, 2018 12:27 PM
Originally published by Folkestone and Hythe Liberal Democrats
Tim Prater

Tim: Councillors should decide, but have decisions bulldozed through

Folkestone and Hythe District Council have published details of an "Urgent Decision" to purchase various pieces of land in the Otterpool Park area without discussion by Councillors.

Former Shepway District Councillor, and former Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Tim Prater has asked why this decision is being taken as an "Urgent Decision" rather than being discussed and decided by Councillors. Tim says:

"This is an important decision - we're talking about our cash-strapped District Council paying out loads more money they don't really have on land. The purchases are big. The notice itself makes it clear we're not talking small money but at least £300,000 and potentially much, much more.

"I personally have huge reservations about the whole Otterpool Park project, but it is up to the Council to decide to proceed. But that's the point: COUNCIL should decide, not force through a decision to spend fortunes on various blocks of land on the say so of the Leader, and Cabinet Member and the Head of Paid Service.

"There is nothing in the notice to justify why allowing a couple of weeks for Councillors to consider this would jeopardise any part of the project. There is a full Council meeting timetabled already in July, and an extraordinary meeting could be called as well if needed.

"Making this an Urgent Decision rather than allowing Councillors to discuss and agree it in advance is the type of 'smoke-filled room' politics that people rightly distrust. If Folkestone and Hythe District Council don't trust their own Councillors to consider the purchases and make the right decision then they shouldn't be buying the land at all."

The decision is named a "URGENT KEY DECISION". The notice of the decision itself says that this would not be a key decision if it relates to expenditure, income or savings that:

a) Has been approved previously by full Council; or

b) Has been approved previously, following compliance with the key decision procedure; or,

c) Is in accordance with the current treasury management and investment policy of the Council.

The acquisitions therefore have, at this time, not been previously approved by Full Council, not been approved previously or are not in accordance with the current Treasury and Investment processes of the Council.