Any Member of the Council may ask the Leader of the Council or any Cabinet Member any question without prior notice, upon:
· Any matter relating to the Council’s administration
· Any matter relating to any report of the Cabinet appearing on the summons
· A matter coming within their portfolio of responsibilities
Only one supplementary question is allowed per question.
If you would like to ask a question at this meeting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible and by Friday 6th November at the latest.
Councillor Hilton referred to the confirmation given (Council 24th September 2020 minute 30.1) that the Gloucester Business Improvement District’s (BID) investigative report into Marketing Gloucester Limited (MGL) had been shared with the Gloucestershire Constabulary. He asked if the Leader of the Council had met with the Constabulary since and if they were to bring charges. The Leader of the Council replied that although a virtual meeting had taken place and the matter was on-going, it would not be appropriate to give details in the public domain. Councillor Hilton sought assurance that charges would be brought if probable fraud had been revealed. The Leader of the Council stated that only the Constabulary and Crown Prosecution Service could determine if any charges were warranted.
Councillor Hilton informed Members that he perceived both BID and MGL to have been infected by the same elements of poor management and attention to financial matters at the time the report was prepared. He asked if the Leader of the Council agreed that the many businesses who had contributed financially to BID had been badly let down by its transactions with MGL. The Leader of the Council commented that if he had been one of those businesses, he would be asking the people in charge to account for what happened. Councillor Hilton sought reassurance that the council would help the Gloucester BID to introduce robust financial and governance measures as had been done with MGL. The Leader of the Council made it clear that it was not up to the council to tell the BID how to run their affairs but nevertheless he had told officers to offer ongoing assistance and even consider taking a place on the governing board if requested to do so.
Councillor Wilson asked if more information had come to light since an initial review by the consultants Grant Thornton of MGL which had failed to identify the detail of payments, including a £400,000 grant from the Gloucestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (Gfirst LEP), made by MGL in setting up its subsidiary the UK Digital Retail Innovation Centre Limited (UK:DRIC). The Leader of the Council answered by quoting from the MGL liquidator’s report to the effect that the grant appeared to have been spent on UK:DRIC transactions discharging the refurbishment costs of MGL’s premises which retain a value and concluding with the statement that Gfirst LEP was `largely satisfied that the £400k was properly spent, and that officers within the LEP had seen documents supporting the expenditure as the project advanced. Accordingly, we have not investigated this further at this stage.’
Councillor Wilson noted firstly that the liquidator’s report also found that these transactions were not recorded in as much detail as others and secondly that there were potential conflicts of interest with a person having been both a Director of Gfirst LEP and MGL and a Director of each being partners. He queried why assurances from the LEP were relied upon rather than the detail being shown. The Leader of the Council reiterated that sufficient detail was not present in the MGL or UK:DRIC books despite examination by the council finance team. He further commented that the County Council appeared satisfied with the Gfirst LEP account.