South Kesteven council in £3m deal to ‘close the gap’

Coun Adam Stokes
Coun Adam Stokes
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A council finance chief has defended claims councillors are deciding major investment decisions in secret.

Last week, a group of rebel councillors, including chairman Bob Sampson “called in” a £3 million investment decision, claiming it had been taken ‘behind closed doors.’ Some were also unhappy the investment was in a building outside the district.

The Growth Overview & Scrutiny Committee last Friday backed Cabinet Member for Finance Adam Stokes for his earlier decision to buy the building, an investment which can now continue.

Coun Stokes (Con) told the Journal afterwards:“The investment proposal went through the correct process, but my colleagues are entitled to call in this decision, and we welcome the additional scrutiny. Funding from central government has reduced substantially in recent years, so it is increasingly important that SKDC explores potential ways to generate income to help close the gap on behalf of our residents.

“Our commitment to investing in our district is beyond question: in October we announced a series of projects worth more than £40 million over the next three years. In addition, we remain open to considering opportunities in other districts if we believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Unaligned Harrrowby ward councillor Ian Selby said: “To be fair, on paper it appears a good and relatively safe investment and I can understand the need for an element of secrecy in order to secure a good deal before any competitors get wind of the council’s interest, but that doesn’t excuse keeping councillors in the dark.”

He said he understood council efforts to keep council tax low but feared investing outside the district sent wrong signals to potential investers here. Despite doubts over the new cinema complex, at least it would generate local jobs for local people who would spend their money locally.

Labour councillor Phil Dilks, who was behind the ‘call in,’ again called for greater council transparency on investment decisions.

Council chairman Bob Sampson said: ”I can’t say anything. The whole meeting was behind closed doors.”