Nottinghamshire County Council has refused an opposition group’s request for extra checks on a major project to spend £4.3m on starting a development at Top Wighay Farm.
The council approved the spending on May 10, outlining how the cash will unlock the land for hundreds of houses, a new council office and other community facilities like a school.
It was made as a delegated decision, meaning it was taken behind closed doors, outside of a public council meeting.
A report on the plan said the major site, near Hucknall and Linby, was on track for new development. It confirmed building work on the site is expected to cost the council £4.078m during this year and the next financial year.
The Independent Alliance opposition group ‘called in’ the decision in May and claimed the Conservative authority is not being “transparent”.
To ‘call in’ a decision means the contents of the report and the decision itself could be reviewed and debated by one of the council’s scrutiny committees.
But the county council said the request “did not meet the grounds for a call-in, and as such had been refused”.
At the Overview Committee meeting on June 29, councillors were asked to ‘note’ that the call-in request had been refused.
But Cllr John Willmott, member for Hucknall North, said he was left frustrated after being told he could not make a statement at the meeting.
Chair of the committee Cllr Glynn Gilfoyle (Lab) said: “The monitoring officer will submit a report at the next available meeting giving details of the decision and reasons for refusal.
“As such, the report is for members to note. We aren’t going to go into a debate on it because that’s not what we are here for.”
Cllr Philip Owen (Con) said: “There will be a working group of the governance and ethics committee to look at the process of scrutiny.
“It’s a cross-party group. Our big problem is that the Ashfield Independents or whatever they are now don’t always attend.
“They are frequently absent. That is the forum in which any suggestions for the improvement of the scrutiny process should be made.”
Cllr John Willmott (Ind) said: “I’m obviously not pleased that I’m not able to speak.
“It’s a decision that was made and I wanted to say that we feel it was the wrong decision.
“We should be able to discuss it.”
Cllr Owen responded: “The decision of the monitoring officer is final. It’s done and dusted.”
Cllr Gilfoyle added: “We aren’t here for you to rehearse what would’ve been the call-in.
“The call-in didn’t happen and the monitoring officers have justified that.”
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Willmott said: “It’s incredibly frustrating that the council will even not discuss this huge issue.
“We were right about the overspending on the Gedling Access Road and will be right again about the clear overspending on the Top Wighay Farm. The new offices are being built at a time when council workers are still being advised to work from home.
“We will never apologise for ensuring that the use of taxpayers’ money is scrutinised appropriately.”
Construction and building work on the Top Wighay site is expected to cost the council £4.078m during this year and the next financial year.
This includes a road and roundabout into the site to allow several new projects to take shape.
A further £305,012 will fund professional fees for the wider Top Wighay project.
This includes costs for all stages of development and planning, as well as site surveys and costs to the authority’s contractor Arc Partnership.