Further news from Scrutiny……

7th September, 2011

Ross Willmott

Cllr Sue Waddington reported a successful first meeting of the Employment Scrutiny Commission enquiring into the future of teaching English as a second language.

We looked at two major projects affecting the city, never before scrutinised, as we wanted to learn from them.

We discussed how Prospect Leicestershire has been scrapped by the mayor without any scrutiny and learnt that there appeared to be total confusion about the replacement arrangements, Cllr Cassidy, assistant mayor responsible explained that there were now 4 sets of people that would handle investors approaching the city: two staff in the council, Leics Promotions, the LEP and the mayor’s office. Hardly the one stop shop that we know businesses seeking to invest always cry out for! It was also clear that there were sufficient funds and commitment from partners to continue the excellent work of Prospect, albeit on a much reduced budget. Serious questions were raised about how Leicester will now promote itself to investors and handle enquiries. A report on this will follow.

The enquiry into Prospect will continue as we seek evidence from the other parties involved.

The scrapping of the Myplace project, the plan to use the surplus Haymarket Theatre as a youth hub for the city, came under close scrutiny. Central to the questioning was why had the council handed back £5million of lottery money before the last elections? A great loss to young people. We were told that it was because the running costs could not be afforded. We learnt that this was not quite the whole story. The council had already provided £400,000 in the previous year towards the running costs. That whatever happened we had to pay lease costs of £209,000 pa for the next 60 years! So the actual shortfall was around £300,000 to £400,000. It seemed obvious that some of the running costs could be reduced, particularly in management posts. Knocking another £100-150,000 off the cost. Cllr Glover argued that other funding and ways of generating income should have been looked at, and it was a failing that they weren’t. In response to a question from Arran of the Young People’s Council it was made clear by the politicians that there was no intention to fund the Youth Hub by taking money from other youth services. It became clear during discussion that with some fundraising and strong political commitment there was every reason why the project could have gone ahead. It would not have been impossible to bridge the shortfall of £150-200,000 to bring a fantastic investment of £5million lottery funding for young people.

It was reluctantly recognised that this loss to the city is now a forgone conclusion. The mayor was asked if he would ring fence the council’s contribution of £1.5 million capital and £400,000 revenue for young people. He refused. The committee formally agreed to request the mayor to look at using this money for young people. I will keep you posted.

 

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