CRUNCH talks over York’s community stadium which descended into a row over secrecy have been branded “an utter farce”.
Three councillors called into question a decision by City of York Council’s ruling Labour cabinet over a revised business case for the £19.2 million Monks Cross scheme and a new rent deal with the company operating Huntington Stadium and other leisure facilities.
They asked for the decision to be scrutinised. But their “call-in” was defeated at the subsequent scrutiny committee meeting.
The handling of the issue at that meeting has now come under fire, after councillors who were not on the scrutiny committee or had not officially seen confidential papers were asked to leave the room while they were discussed.
Green councillor Dave Taylor, who “called in” the issue with Couns Ian Gillies and Mark Warters, said that as he had already legitimately seen and read the confidential papers he had no intention of leaving.
He later offered to leave while certain questions were asked.
He described the lengthy debate about confidentiality which followed as “pointless” and “a shambles of secrecy”.
He also questioned why “elected members are supposedly not permitted to see all the papers”.
He said: “It was an utter farce. How can members truly scrutinise decisions if some of the information is kept secret?
“It merely encourages more information to be kept confidential to deter proper scrutiny.”
Council leader Coun James Alexander said the meeting was “a waste of time”, and said he had raised it with committee chair Coun Sian Wiseman and group leaders.
He claimed there had been a danger of the meeting being called off, which would have been “bureaucratic nonsense”, delayed the stadium project and added to costs, and he believed Coun Taylor should not have been asked to leave.
He said: “A commonsense solution must be found so we discuss the issues which matter to York people – meetings like this are full of hot air with no real outcome.”
In an email to Coun Alexander, Coun Gillies said the authority’s scrutiny process under Labour was “in total disarray” and the councillors asked to leave the meeting – which he described as “a debacle” – had already seen the confidential details.
Liberal Democrat leader Coun Carol Runciman, who chairs the council’s standards board, said she would raise the matter with officials to avoid a repeat.
She said: “Councillors must be able to have a proper debate, not be hampered by processes.”