A decision to close a leisure centre was made by leading Cornwall councillors despite not having all of the information required.
Cornwall Council’s legal officers have stated they agree the council’s cabinet did not have adequate information when they made the decision to close Ships and Castles in Falmouth.
The leisure centre is set to close next week but Falmouth councillors have successfully called-in the decision so it will have to be looked at again at an extraordinary meeting on Monday.
The council’s customer and support services overview and scrutiny committee will meet at County Hall to discuss the call-in.
One of the main grounds of the call-in, which was submitted by Laurie Magowan and Jayne Kirkham, was that cabinet members did not consider the details of a bid to takeover the centre which had been submitted by two alternative operators.
While cabinet member Richard Pears told the meeting the bid was not economically viable, the Labour councillors were concerned there was inadequate information included in the documents considered by the cabinet when they made that decision.
Cllrs Kirkham and Magowan said that the cabinet did not consider:
The actual value of the bid in revenue terms and whether it did in fact fit within the budget framework
The fact that the two bidders were keen to work together and negotiate further. This information was not given to cabinet members before they made their decision
The social value of either bid was not covered in the information given to cabinet so was not properly taken into account in their decision.
The application form for the call-in states: “Cabinet members were not told any details of the two bids at all. Not the financial value of them, the social value, any breakdown of the scoring matrix. They made a decision based on that one sentence in an officers’ confidential report. That is inadequate evidence.”
In paperwork drawn up for the scrutiny committee meeting on Monday the monitoring officer sets out their response to the call-in and explains why it was accepted. They conclude it has been granted “on the basis of inadequate evidence to make a decision”.
They go on to explain this is due to a “lack of values” being provided in the paperwork used by the cabinet on which they based their decision. They go on to highlight that this information would be commercially sensitive and so would not be made available to the public.
The two Falmouth councillors had also presented other grounds for the call-in but these were not accepted by the monitoring officer and so it will only be considered on the bases of the inadequate information.
However, while the call-in has been accepted and will be discussed by the overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, the chairman of that committee said he believes the case is “weak”.
In a document included as part of the agenda for the meeting John Keeling states: “I have considerable sympathy with the situation regarding Ships and Castles and the loss of such a facility. However, I feel that the reasons for call-in are weak and may not stand up to scrutiny in this case.”
The meeting on Monday will see councillors with two options – they can either decide to refer the decisions on Ships and Castles back to the Cabinet or they can take no further action. If they decide to refer it back to Cabinet an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet has been pencilled in for Wednesday (March30) to consider the request.
Credit: Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporting Service