Dacorum Cabinet Member refuses to publish statement about £44k project ahead of meeting

Cllr Julie Banks will provide a response at the next Housing and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Friday, 30th October 2020, 3:51 pm
Updated Friday, 30th October 2020, 3:54 pm

Council Portfolio-holders have been questioned by councillors after a plan to spend up to £44,000 of 'irreplaceable' reserves was rejected by the Housing and Community Scrutiny Committee on October 7.

The committee said that “people needed to be put before buildings” and that a senior councillor from one ward had been asked their views on a large spend for all of Dacorum’s young people.

Under subsequent questioning, councillor Julie Banks has promised to make a statement to the next meeting of the OSC, which is on November 4.

Dacorum

The opposition councillors are asking why the statement is being delayed until then, demanding it is published immediately.

It comes after £56k of a £100k reserve had already gone into the Dacorum Cycle Hub - only for the tenants to move out - leaving the building spare.

Councillors scrutinising the outline case called the idea “undercooked” and asked for proposals to be re-visited and to make use of Youth Councils, Community Centres and Adventure Playgrounds across the whole Borough.

Asked by a series of councillors why only she was consulted, cllr Banks claimed a misunderstanding.

Council documents say “the local councillor was consulted” but Banks – who is the local councillor and also works as the Grovehill Community Centre Manager - clarified that she had been asked her opinion “as a Cabinet member”.

Cllr Adrian England noted the apparent conflict of interest: “The 2018 Sports and Activity Strategy says DBC will “Establish strong governance model” but the Community Impact Assessment says “We have spoken to the local councillor for the area to discuss the project. The “local Councillor” happens to be the responsible Portfolio-holder and runs the Community Centre local to this mooted project. This is not how local government is supposed to work.”

Highfield Councillor Sammy Barry pointed out that “this money is valuable for our young people, who are often left out when it comes to provision, and should be used in a way that is accessible across the Borough, not just in Grovehill, which is just one of six of our high-need areas.”

Vice Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, Conservative Cllr Adeleke said in the scrutiny committee he had “grave concerns” about the failure of the Cycle Hub, after £56,000 had been put in.

He also asked why other members had not been consulted about the plans to spend £44,000 more at the same site.

Following the meeting, more questions have been raised about the money spent in Grovehill, when the funds were understood to have been raised originally, over a period of years, by Highfield residents.

A spokesman for Dacorum Borough Council said: “In accordance with the Housing and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee request, Cllr Julie Banks, Communities and Regulatory Portfolio-Holder, has committed to providing a response at the next Housing and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 4 November 2020”.