Since being elected last year, Lib Dem group members on Sandhurst Town Council have been pushing for greater scrutiny and accountability over council decision making. Group Leader, Cllr Leigh Quigg, writes:

In mid-May of ’23 the residents of Sandhurst decided a change was needed and, in the local Council elections, the Town Council saw a seismic change with the election of six new Liberal Democrat Councillors. Following a by-election in November, this has been further bolstered bringing the total to seven, with Liberal Democrats now holding nearly a third of the 24 total seats. Our promise to residents has always been to be open, honest and transparent, these are our guiding principles under which we all operate.

Whilst the status quo of Town Councils is that, traditionally, party politics are left aside in order to work collectively for the benefit of residents, it became immediately apparent at the very first Town Council meeting last year that this was not going to be the way in Sandhurst. Conservative Councillors refused to listen to the voice of residents, who had clearly indicated change was needed and new Lib Dem Councillors were barred from joining the key Strategy and Policy committee. This group oversees all Council finances and spending plans, directs all major decisions and the Chair is also part of the Delegated Decisions/Urgent Decisions process.

Since the first full meeting of May 18th, our objective has been to scrutinise the decisions made by the Council, in order to ensure the best value and outcomes for all our residents. With this in mind, we have put forward two motions.

  • Open and Transparent: In line with the drive to more open democracy, we proposed that official Council minutes contain some context around discussions held, specifying this would be a brief review and not long ad verbatim. The benefit being, that our residents who review meeting minutes online would be able to understand better the context of votes, what the Council was discussing, agreeing and why.

Result? This basic measure to increase transparency was unanimously rejected by the Conservative majority.

  • Lease review: Given the controversy associated with the lease of Bottom Meadow, and recognising our commitment to transparency, we proposed that a full independent audit was conducted by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) on the processes and associated outcome related to all of the Council’s leases.  An audit by an external expert would provide our residents with the confidence that the correct process and due diligence were performed, whilst delivering the best returns and value for them.

Result? This was again unanimously rejected by Conservative Members.

It is increasingly clear, after a period of 8 months since the local elections, that our fellow Councillors refuse to be collaborative in any way, and this is particularly evident with regard to any activity surrounding discussions and agreements on Bottom Meadow (see more below).

STC signs Commercial Lease Agreement with NO rent increase for 15 years!

In Summer last year (’23) it came to light that the lease at Bottom Meadow had been amended as a result of rent discussions between the Council and the owners of STFC & BTFC.  The amended deal agrees a lease for 15 years which includes a flat annual rental fee, without any period of review, or increase for the entire duration. Such a deal is entirely contrary to any normal business practice and as such, Liberal Democrat members have endeavoured to uncover how and more importantly why that decision was made. We don’t believe that this decision was made in the best interests of Sandhurst residents and nor does it deliver best returns or value over the next 15 years.

Repeated requests for information have been made to the Chair of the Strategy and Policy Committee, along with questions posed, asking for copies of documentation, and details of the commercial processes followed. Each one of these requests has been ignored. We will however, not be deterred in our drive for open, honest and transparent democracy to unearth why this rental agreement was reached.

The Bracknell Forest Liberal Democrats wish to be clear that we are in no way opposed the use of Bottom Meadow for community sport, but it is our responsibility to ensure that any deal made on the lease best serves the interests of all residents. Currently Sandhurst Town Council is failing to deliver value for money on Bottom Meadow and is seeking to avoid legitimate scrutiny around decision making processes.

Categories: News

1 Comment

ali williams · 29/01/2024 at 20:51

i agree that all decisions and plans of this nature must have a representatieve

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