It’s sometimes a lonely business covering council meetings.
Normally at cabinet I’m perched in the public gallery with one man and his dog (and the dog has been busy recently). But not this week.
This time the normally barren benches were packed with traders and residents who are seriously annoyed by the need for a “bail out” of the Red Lion Quarter.
I feared the meeting wasn’t going to be the ‘box office’ event they all seemed to be braced for and that my new-found company would be left wishing they’d gone home and stuck on the soaps or Spain vs Scotland.
They were probably only half disappointed by what they saw.
Early on it was clear that the two remaining directors of the Red Lion Quarter – Howard Johnson and Paul Przyszlak – would have to leave the meeting and would not be able to discuss the company set up to run the £6.5 million centre.
There were certainly grumblings when councillors said it couldn’t speak for the “Community Interest Company”. The CIC is, after all, a “wholly owned subsidiary company” and the Red Lion Quarter itself is owned by the council.
In blunt English it may not be their fault for cocking this up but the council will have to face the brunt of the public backlash – and by stumping up the cash (our money) to bail it out they will be held responsible.
If it isn’t totally their fault, then who should shoulder the blame?
Richard Baggaley, the man appointed by the council (them again) to run it, who was, somewhat ironically, quoted on the opening day saying: “We have a fabulous building in the middle of Spalding that hasn’t cost the taxpayer a penny”?
Or the five directors (named on page three) who quickly left? Why did they go so soon after the centre opened?
Also – why are the shops facing the back of the centre? Where were the promised cookery demonstrations that were supposed to liven up the food court?
I appreciate that these questions might not be able to be answered right now but they do need to be addressed.
This paper is not one to irrationally scream for blood but people are angry and they deserve answers.
Councillor Bryan Alcock is leading the inquiry. From my experience ,he’s a pretty formidable performer. Hopefully he’ll get to the bottom of this sorry mess.
If not I guess those benches will be full to bursting again...