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Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
Declaration of Interests
To receive any declarations of interest. Members are advised to consider the advice contained within the Declaration of Interest form attached at the back of this agenda. If a Member declares an interest, they should complete that form and hand it to the officer clerking the meeting and then take the prescribed course of action.
There were no declarations received at the meeting.
Councillor Campbell proposed, Councillor Marson seconded and Members agreed the minutes.
The Chairman introduced the item and asked Members to engage the CEx in following up on the written questions submitted by Members to the CEx to respond. Following up on his first Question, Councillor Driver asked whether officers had verified if the Natwest Bank offer letter which still had only two weeks before it expired was still valid by the time Council had agreed on the matter. In response, Sue McGonigal, CEx said that the offer letter was still valid. The developers were still trying to align all that was required to make a final decision.
In a follow-up question, Councillor Driver wanted to know which solicitors were used by the Council, the instructions given by the solicitors and the cost of the legal advice. The CEx said that Prettys Solicitors were used. The Council did not hold information regarding the cost of the legal advice as this was paid for by the developer. Councillor Driver said that Prettys Solicitors were also acting on behalf of the developer; they could therefore have given misleading information to Council. Mr Harvey Patterson, Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager said that a solicitor would breach his or her professional code of conduct if they made a statement or representation they knew to be untrue. Accordingly, Prettys would have been under a duty to act honestly. CEx said that the Council would have checked the evidence regarding the ability of the funder to provide the funding for the project.
Councillor Nicholson said that the letter from SFP Venture UK Ltd looked suspicious and should have been checked for validity. He said that the written responses given to his question was inadequate. In response the CEx said that the letter in question was not used as evidence. Instead the information used was the one provided by the solicitors which indicated that the funding was available. Eversheds Solicitors appointed by the Council confirmed this information with the developer’s solicitors. Councillor Driver said that Cabinet and Council reports that were used in making decisions regarding this issue did not advise Members to disregard the letter in question as Members could have been influenced by all the documents in the report. CEx said that the letter was still valid and relevant in giving a complete picture of the situation.
Mr Patterson also advised that Council officers would not have been given access to the funding agreement which was why the Council’s external solicitor was not given access either. However, the Council was entitled to rely on the honesty of the representations made by Prettys. Councillor Nicholson said that independent solicitors should have been used for the inspection of the documents that included financial documents. Members also acknowledged that members did not question the adequacy of the due diligence in 2009.
Councillor Binks acknowledged that in 2009 officers did not recommend the changes proposed to the Development Agreement. She also said that she personally did not think that Councillor Nicholson and Councillor Harrison were suitable to sit on the Task & Finish ... view the full minutes text for item 15.