South Holland District Councillors grill cabinet member over property purchase
A leading councillor was called to defend his decision to buy a third property for rough sleepers after colleagues advised not to go ahead with the sale.
Rodney Grocock, South Holland District Council’s Assets and Planning portfolio holder, was grilled by Performance Monitoring Panel members over why he took the decision despite their recommendation not to buy the house over suitability concerns.
Committee chairman Coun Bryan Alcock questioned why members’ comments and frustrations had been ‘ignored’ while Coun Angela Newton asked if the authority was run by officers or councillors.
Coun Grocock explained to the panel that there had been a strict time frame of just four months to obtain the Government money to acquire properties, which must last for 30 years, to house rough sleepers.
Coun Newton, who later asked if the properties she had put forward were considered, said: “You have taken into account the officers’ recommendations over 13 members, however you look at it that gives the impression to any public listening and members here that their views were discounted.”
She later said: “I think the public are entitled to know if this Conservative administration or you in particular are over-ruling democracy in this council and that the scrutiny panel might as well pack up and go home.”
Concerns about the property’s age were raised by Coun David Wilkinson and Coun Michael Booth, who called for the authority to stick to its criteria.
Coun Grocock stated that a shortlist of 29 properties had been presented to himself, finance portfolio holder Peter Coupland and Coun Christine Lawton by officers, who had looked at more than 70. He said that the properties had been discussed over a series of meetings with officers and the three portfolio holders.
Coun Grocock said the housing team understood what it takes to turn these properties into homes for people who don’t know each other.
He also said that he did not understand why the decision to buy the first two houses was not called in and that he could not see a difference between the properties.
Coun Grocock said: “I was trying to weigh up if the decision that I had got to take was the right one. I still to this day believe I made the right decision here.” He later said: “Scrutiny is a very important thing and we can never lose that. That’s the thing that keeps councils in line.”