In accordance with the provisions set out in the Overview and Scrutiny procedure rules, a request has been received from the following Members to call-in minute No. 71 from the Cabinet meeting on 8th January, 2019:
Cllr Alex Crawford
Cllr Terry Bridgeman
Cllr Keith Dibble
Cllr Sue Dibble
Cllr Jennifer Evans
Cllr Barry Jones
Cllr Nadia Martin
Cllr Mike Roberts
The reason given for the call-in request is that the resolution of the Cabinet was made on the basis of inadequate information.
Attached for information are Exempt Report No. RP1901, which sets out matters regarding the acquisition of properties in relation to the regeneration of Aldershot town centre and a copy of the relevant draft minute of the Cabinet meeting on 8th January, 2019.
The Committee was advised of the submission of a request to call-in the resolution made by the Cabinet on 8th January, 2019 in relation the Aldershot Regeneration Site Assembly. The request for call-in had been submitted by Cllrs. Alex Crawford, Terry Bridgeman, Keith Dibble, Sue Dibble, Jennifer Evans, Barry Jones, Nadia Martin and Mike Roberts.
The Committee was advised that should the call-in request be rejected the decision made by the Cabinet on 8th January, 2019 would take effect as of 1st February, 2019. If the call-in request was accepted, a report would be made to Cabinet at its next meeting on 5th February, 2019.
Cllr. Crawford attended the meeting to present the call0in request and the reasons behind it. The Members who had submitted the call-in felt that the information given to the Cabinet at the time had been inadequate and had not provided a full picture of the current situation with the particular property referred to in Exempt Report No. RP1901. It was suggested that there was an absence of knowledge regarding the quality of work carried out in the past two years at the property and it was felt that the Council were unlikely to see a financial return and would subsequently have to write off the purchase price to allow the scheme to move ahead. It was felt that the Council was taking a reputational risk in paying an inflated price for the property to save time and the information provided did not provide the necessary justification for the decision.
Cllr. Tennant, Major Projects and Property Portfolio Holder, addressed the meeting on behalf of the Cabinet. Cllr. Tennant advised that the Cabinet had received both Exempt Report No. 1901 and a verbal report from the Chief Executive on the evening of 8th January, 2019. It was noted that the purchase of the particular property would allow the redevelopment of the site as a whole. Other options would be to carry out a Compulsory Purchase Order, which could complicate/delay the process or not acquire the site and work around the property, this could have implications if the development was considered substandard and may affect the viability of the overall project. In addition, Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) secured for the regeneration of Aldershot to the value of £8 million, could be put at risk as the funding terms stated that the monies should be spent within a strict timeframe. He felt strongly that the council had considered the options thoroughly and based its decision on sound and comprehensive information.
The Chief Executive, Mr. Paul Shackley advised that the Council had previously agreed to give powers of delegation to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Major Projects and Property Portfolio Holder, to negotiate and acquire properties. In this case, the Chief Executive had referred the decision back to the Cabinet for consideration. The Committee also noted that due diligence was being carried out on the property and this was expected to take a few more days. The Chief Executive advised that the Rushmoor Development Partnership (RDP) felt that the acquisition of the property was important to the viability of the whole site.
In response to a question, it was advised that if the value of the property was found to be less than predicted after due diligence had been carried out, a further report would need to be made to the Cabinet for consideration.
After further discussion, it was noted that the £8 million HIF funding had a three year time limit and was dependant on the privately owned Galleries site as well the Union Street East site. Cllr. Crawford stressed the importance of an outline business case for the Union Street East site to ensure viability. It was noted that a commitment had been made to regenerate Aldershot and through the partnership with Hill Investment the risk was shared equally with the Council to provide a town centre for the people of Aldershot.
Having considered the issues, Members AGREED that there was insufficient evidence to support the call-in request.
In confirming the rejection of the call-in request, the chairman advised the decision made by the Cabinet at the meeting on 8th January, 2019 which would take effect as of 1st February, 2019.