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Friday, 23 October 2020

Group set up to scrutinise Nottingham City Council’s owned companies, but no opposition councillors allowed

The chairman of the new committee is the leader of the council David Mellen, who is also on the board of property development company Blueprint.

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A new group designed to monitor the 10 companies owned or part-owned by Nottingham City Council has met for the first time today (Tuesday, January 21).

However, all members of the committee are Labour councillors.

At the beginning of the meeting, all councillors declared an interest as being on the board, or as a shareholder, of a council-owned company.

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The chairman of the new committee is the leader of the council David Mellen, who is also on the board of property development company Blueprint.

The vice-chairman of the committee is Councillor Sally Longford, the deputy leader of the council, who is on the board of heating and electricity provider Enviroenergy.

The three other senior councillors at the inaugural meeting were on boards of – or nominated shareholders of – electric and gas company Robin Hood Energy, newly-purchased road construction firm Thomas Bow, and arms-length housing provider Nottingham City Homes.

The leader of the Conservative group said the committee amounted to Labour ‘marking their own homework’.

Representatives from the two opposition groups on the council – the Nottingham Independents and the Conservatives, had both asked to be represented at the meeting.

However, they were asked to sit at the back of the room and were not allowed to speak during the meeting.

Press were allowed at the meeting throughout but there were warnings that items deemed commercially sensitive would be discussed in private at future meetings.

The five councillors who make up the committee will decide which items are discussed when the group meets every two months.

The committee is designed to examine how the 10 companies are operating.

One of the things the committee will do is consider a report about the make-up of the different boards.

Council leader David Mellen, who represents the Dales ward for Labour, told the room “I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you all the councillor membership of those different companies.”

More companies are expected to be bought or set up by the company in the coming months.

These include a bailiff company and a care company, as well as community trust for buildings.

Speaking after the meeting, councillor Mellen said: “We have a number of companies that we own or partially own, we’ve got plans to set up some new ones, and so it was felt important to have a closer scrutiny of those companies and to have a group of companies who are particularly set aside to have oversight.”

Asked why opposition councillors had not been allowed on the committee, he said: “The people of Nottingham in their wisdom chose to elect 50 Labour councillors in May last year, three independent councillors and two Conservative councillors.

“It seems appropriate that this board is made up of members of the group who commanded a majority of support from the people of Nottingham.”

Councillor Andrew Rule is the leader of the Conservative group and represents the Clifton West ward.

After the meeting, he said: “I’ve called for this committee to be formed for the last 18 months, and while it’s half-way encouraging that it has been formed, prior to the meeting started the leader of the council ejected me from my seat at the table and relegated me to the back of the room.

“I think opposition councillors absolutely have a role to play on this committee.

“Difficult questions need to be asked and best practice has got to be gleaned, and the way you do that is by having cross parties around the table.

“This just amounts to Labour councillors marking their own homework.”

The committee is expected to meet again in March.

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