Luton Council’s Liberal Democrat Opposition Group expressed outrage this week at a decision by the Labour-run Council to take an Executive Committee report detailing sites they intend to sell in secret, with members of the public excluded.
The Labour Executive will on Monday night discuss in secret, and are expected to approve, a 16-page report titled “Sale of Surplus Sites.” The report details eleven currently Council-owned sites in Luton being sold off.
However, the decision to take the discussion in secret means Liberal Democrat Councillors are not allowed to reveal which sites are to be sold or what reasoning there is for the sales.
The Lib Dems are also concerned that Labour may be continuing their policy of selling off freeholds, rather than granting long leases with the land eventually returning to public ownership – as happened under the former Liberal Democrat-led administration.
Liberal Democrat Opposition Leader David Franks is now asking for the decision to be taken in the public part of the meeting and discussed openly, as is usually the case, with only commercially sensitive details such as the anticipated selling price kept under wraps.
Commenting, Cllr David Franks said:
“Sales of Council sites have always been discussed in public so residents can know what decisions are being taken, why and so relevant questions can be asked. In the case of some of these sites there are certainly questions which need to be answered and I will be asking these questions at the meeting. The problem is that, because of the Council’s secrecy rules I am not allowed to say what the questions are or what answers, if any, I may be given.”
“While we understand sensitivities around selling prices and the like, these can be put into a separate appendix. There is no reason at all why a whole 16-page report listing sites for sale should be agreed in secret, except for the fact the Labour Leader and Finance Spokesperson presumably want it to be.”
“By trying to secretly sneak through a set of sales in mid-August, Labour are treating residents with complete contempt. People should be told openly which sites or buildings are being put up for grabs, and have the chance to make any representations.”