Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Gagged

It seems our local Green Councillor has been gagged by TDC. Story here in the IOTG. It beggars belief that TDC could get into such a pickle over some legal advice. The perception, of course, is they have something to hide.

So let us examine what that legal advice may be.

Firstly the background to this is Cardy have approached TDC officers to solve the ongoing saga over SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd as TDC had served a breach notice on the Company due to inaction on their part.

As part of the process of allowing Cardy to take over SFP the Council have requested 3 pieces of information from experts. Firstly a formal valuation of the site by Strutt & Parker. Secondly a full structural survey of the cliff face, and thirdly legal advice from Pinsent Mason (PM). This last it seems is what Ian Driver removed from the Council office and is subject to a Legal Injuction to stop him disseminating the contents.

The valuation, also subject to the injunction,  is hardly rocket science as any competent accountant or estate agent could easily work this out based on the 2005 valuation which, since the then council legal officer announced as no longer on "pink", is in the public domain.

So lets examine just why Ian Driver has been gagged.

The Council Legal Officer, Harvey Patterson, announced at an Overview & Scrutiny T&F group meeting that due to the passage of time all paperwork prior to the 2009 Development Agreement should no more be kept secret so that means the suppressed Legal Advice cannot be anything to do with that. Neither is the prior advice concerning the serving of the breach notice as that seems to have been released into the public domain despite still being on "pink".

So what could this new advice be and just why is it so controversial? Firstly lets see just what the legal advisers were asked to do. To get to a point where PM can give advice they have to test why TDC are in this current predicament, this would indicate they have questioned the officers and examined paperwork to see how the current situation arose. They then would have used that 20/20 hindsight knowledge to formulate their advice.

So discounting their current advice to Council as that may have some confidential aspects however it is widely known that Cardy will be "allowed" to be the Developer once they purchase SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd so it isn't a huge secret and they are "the only game in town" it then becomes apparent that the information given to Pinsent Mason by officers may potentially be "Politically sensitive" or as is more likely highly sensitive to Officers on 2 counts.
Firstly to get to a position where appropriate advice can be given officers may have had to be completely honest to the lawyer and if they had known that information would be leaked they would have been less than forthcoming if they meant they would be perceived as inept.
Secondly it may be that the story being spun would be somewhat scuppered if the real truth was able to be read by the general public hence politically sensitive.
People already have a perception of how incompetently TDC operate however that would be far worse if the real truth came out.

 As an example of what transpired in 2012 FORS discovered that the freehold of the site was being requested by Shaun Keegan and we petitioned to stop it being handed over by TDC until at least the hotel was completed to "Shell & Core" however papers given to me show that the Freehold was going to be handed over for the surrender of the 3 leases (cost £550K) plus a payment of overage £3M plus a payment of £30 (to cover the legal cost of dissolving the leases) making a total of just under £3.6M not far short of the leaked site valuation. This "sale" of the freehold was kept from the public as we were led to believe the leases were important to Keegan on top of the freehold.

Further we are being told that Cardy approached Officers with a deal however what is clear from the leaked "Golden Balls" email it was in fact TDC who made the 1st approach to Cardy in August 2013 and not as we are led to believe Keegan's legal adviser who bought it up in their mediation meeting after the breach notice was served in July 2014. Also the Task & Finish group were aware of this in April 2014.

It is entirely possible that there are other reasons why this legal "advice" is being suppressed however what TDC politicos need to understand is the Public perception of TDC is at an all time low and people have very long memories. Its like the X-Files "the truth is out there".

5 comments:

David Green said...

Barry, it saddens me that you seem to be so obsessed by this. The truth is out there and as with most conspiracy theories is boringly simply. The council has to buy professional opinion on a regularly basis. This advice is always obtained on a "protected" basis. It is usual in many councils that this advice would be given to senior officers who would "interpret" the advice for councillors. In this case we wanted to ensure not only that cabinet saw the advice but that we shared it with opposition parties as well through scrutiny. Cllr Driver allegedly broke that trust. The council had no choice but to take this very seriously. The danger is that quality advice will be harder to find in future.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this up Barry. The whole saga has been made much too complicated by those whom it suits. Common sense says they have (wrongly) been allowed a chance, failed & now must go quietly so that the right solution for the area, which was dedicated for leisure, can be persued. Quality advice is harder to find than meaningful certificates such as those used by some, but the people can see what is right and it hasn't been reached yet.

Anonymous said...

What nonsense Cllr Green. Secret documents provided the day of the debate? Removal from the room for discussion prevented? What happened to Freedom of Information and a council reporting to the public? Shame on you

Barry James said...

Obsessed with publishing things that others may want to hide maybe. However David in this case should TDC wish to discuss this blog they are welcome to ring me anytime and everyone knows that. As Keegan and partners are free to do so as well, but todate no one has asked me to remove a thing. All papers were cleared for publication by your legal officer for events prior to 2009 and since then no one has published anything illegal. What I would say is public perception believes TDC have much to hide and so far nothing has swayed that perception despite seemingly a "solution" being found

Serviced Apartments Guy said...

Thanks for this very clear explanation! You're right, the truth will always come out eventually...