Venue: Civic Suite, North Warehouse, The Docks, Gloucester, GL1 2EP
Contact: Democratic and Electoral Services
Declarations of Interest
To receive from Members, declarations of the existence of any disclosable pecuniary, or non-pecuniary, interests and the nature of those interests in relation to any agenda item. Please see Agenda Notes.
There were no declarations of interest.
Declaration of Party Whipping
To declare if any issues to be covered in the Agenda are under party whip.
There were no declarations of party whipping.
Public Question Time (15 minutes)
To receive any questions from members of the public provided that a question does not relate to:
· Matters which are the subject of current or pending legal proceedings, or
· Matters relating to employees or former employees of the Council or comments in respect of individual Council Officers
The below questions were raised by four members of the public:
4.1 The CEO of a local business addressed the Committee raising his concerns about the methodology used in the Online Survey. The survey was carried out by the consultants as part of the strategic and operational review (details of which can be found within pages 4-4 of Appendix 4). He believed that the data input into the process lacked reliability and validity. In particular, he criticised the data collection methods, the bias in the questions, and the fact that the geographical boundaries were not clearly defined.
He then posed the following question to Cabinet members:
How can this administration justify guessing answers which compromise mine and other city businesses?
The Corporate Director responded to say that the aim of the survey was to collect qualitative data from a broad range of stakeholders as set out in the Terms of Reference. She added that the report does not claim to use quantitative or statistical data. Moreover, Melanie Sensicle was chosen because of the company’s industry expertise in the area.
4.2 A former local business owner also addressed the Committee. He questioned whether the Managing Director of MGL (Marketing Gloucester Limited) had been involved in the review. Secondly, he asked who would now be delivering the City’s marketing events. Thirdly, he expressed his concern that given the current situation with MGL, current MGL staff could be demoralised about their future job security
Firstly, Councillor Watkins, the current Chair of the MGL Board, advised that the Managing Director of MGL had not been involved in the review. Secondly, Councillor Morgan, Cabinet Member of Culture and Leisure explained that the Council was having a thorough review of all the events delivered, and who would be best placed to deliver the events. He added that it was likely going to be a mixture of existing and new staff. In response to the third query, Councillor Watkins stated that whilst she could not talk in detail about private employment matters in the public domain, she could however confirm that herself and the Corporate Director had offered their support to MGL staff.
4.4 A former employee of MGL then spoke to the Committee. She explained that she was behind a whistleblowing case brought against the company in 2014, due to what she considered to be major issues across different areas within the company. Thus, her question was why did Gloucester City Council ignore the concerns raised within the whistleblowing in 2014?
Councillor James, who was also the former Chair of the MGL board stated that it would not be appropriate for him to delve into employment matters in the public domain. However, he confirmed that the whistleblowing case in question was investigated by an independent organisation and the allegations levelled against MGL were found to be groundless.
4.4 A resident of Gloucester asked how the situation with MGL would be turned around for the most positive outcome in the future. Councillor Morgan responded to say that ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Petitions and Deputations (15 minutes)
To receive any petitions and deputations provided that no such petition or deputation is in relation to:
· Matters relating to individual Council Officers, or
· Matters relating to current or pending legal proceedings
There were no petitions or deputations.
To consider the report of the Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure and the Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources. The report outlines the findings and recommendations of the finance, governance, strategic and operational review of Marketing Gloucester as commissioned by the Board of Marketing Gloucester.
6.1 Councillor Morgan, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure presented the report and outlined key points. He stated that since taking over the post of Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, and after talking to various stakeholders, it had become clear to him that there were issues with MGL. This report delivered on promises made to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the 14th of October 2019 Call-In meeting to carry out a full strategic, operational, finance and governance review of the company.
6.2 He then thanked MGL staff for their professionalism and ‘business as usual’ approach over the last weeks and council officers. He also thanked Councillor Watkins who had recently taken over the post of Chair of the Board of MGL for her grit and determination.
6.3 Councillor Norman, Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources set out the structure of the meeting as follows. Councillor Morgan and the Corporate Director (Partnerships) would take the lead on questions related to strategic and operational matters of the review, whilst Councillor Norman and the Head of Policy and Resources would deal with finance and governance related queries.
6.4 Councillor Haigh noted that at the last meeting Councillor Morgan had provided a brief verbal timescale outlining the events leading up to the Cabinet decision to provide a credit facility of to MGL £240,000. Councillor Haigh asked if the timeline could be repeated for Members as a starting point.
6.6 Councillor Morgan provided a timescale of events leading up to the Cabinet decision as follows:
· Wednesday 11th September – receipt of management figures from MGL identifying outstanding debts to HMRC, other creditors and a growing cash flow deficit; and consideration of options to address this. MGL informed the Council that the deadline for HMRC payments would be the 6th October.
· The Corporate Director (Partnerships) notified the Leaders of the Oppositions and the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny on Monday, 16th September by email about a Cabinet Member decision, requesting briefings as soon as practicable.
· A revised Forward Plan was published on Tuesday, 17th September.
· Individual briefings were held on 18th September (Cllr Hilton, Cllr Coole) and 19th September (Cllr Stephens). Officers present were the Corporate Director (Partnerships), the Council’s Solicitor and the Finance Manager. They provided an update on the issue; Councillors were talked through the MGL management figures and the draft decision record. Due to the confidential nature of the matter, no documents were exchanged. Members were advised of the urgency of the matter, given the deadline for outstanding payments to HMRC. Members requested a confidential briefing to members of Overview and Scrutiny Committee following the meeting on the 30th September.
· The Cabinet Decision was published on Wednesday, 26th September.
· A confidential briefing was held to members of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee following its meeting on the 30th September.
6.6 Councillor Haigh then queried whether the £240,000 credit facility had been used to clear the HMRC debts as intended. Councillor Norman responded ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Exclusion of Press and Public
That the press and public be excluded from the meeting during the following items of business on the grounds that it is likely, in view of the nature of business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the press and public are present during consideration of these items there will be disclosure to them of exempt information as defined in Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 as amended.
Agenda Item Nos. Description of Exempt Information
8 Paragraph 3: Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).
7.1 The Chair opened the discussion by reminding Committee Members that there were some minor redactions in the Report which were not available to the Public, and thus he asked Committee Members to reserve any questions relating to these redactions to the end of the meeting.
7.2 Councillor Hilton questioned why the redactions had been made. In his view, the information contained here was not commercially sensitive. The Corporate Director and Monitoring Officer explained that the advice given to the Council by Grant Thornton was that the redacted sections contained commercially sensitive information. By law, this was a legitimate ground for exempting public access to the information.
7.3 RESOLVED that the press and public be excluded from the meeting during any discussion of the redacted items on the grounds that it is likely in view of the nature of the proceedings that if members of the press and public were present during consideration of this item there will be disclosure to them of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 as amended.
7.4 There was no discussion relating to any of the redacted items in the report during the meeting, and hence agenda item 8 has been removed from the minutes.
To consider the report of the Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure and the Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources.
8.1 There was no discussion relating to any of the redacted items in the report during the meeting.
Date of Next Meeting
6th of January 2020.
Monday 6th of January 2020.