In July 2020 the Council had agreed to ask the Local Government Association to nominate a professional person or experienced organisation to investigate and review the processes and actions of the Council in respect of Woking Football Club and associated development. Dr. Gifty Edila was subsequently appointed to undertake the investigation and make appropriate recommendations to the Council.
The report set out the recommendations of Dr Edila together with the proposed ways in which the issues raised would be addressed. It was noted that some of the recommendations identified by Dr Edila had previously been adopted by the Council and were therefore not included in the recommendations set out in the Council report. Furthermore, the report set out proposals for taking forward some of the Independent Investigator’s recommendations. A copy of the full report by Dr Edila was appended to the report.
Councillor Barker proposed that the Council should adopt the recommendations set out in Dr Edila’s report in full, rather than the recommendations set out in the Council report. Accordingly, Councillor Barker moved and Councillor Chrystie seconded that:
“Council resolves that
1. The recommendations set out in the Independent report by Dr Gifty Edila are accepted.
2. Officers are to report back to Council at the July meeting on progress made against the recommendations.
3. The Council expresses its appreciation for the work undertaken by Dr Gifty Edila.”
It was acknowledged that all the recommendations of Dr Edila were to be accepted and that the report outlined the way in which the Council would measure how they had been taken forward. It was therefore agreed that the amendment would be supported nem con.
That (i) the recommendations set out in the Independent report by Dr Gifty Edila and outlined below be accepted;
(ii) Officers report back to Council at the July meeting on progress made against the recommendations; and
(iii) the Council expresses its appreciation for the work undertaken by Dr Gifty Edila.
Recommendations of the Independent Investigation
(i) All major development projects however initiated should be recognised as a project and the Council’s project management tools such as Prince 2 should be adopted to manage the project.
(ii) Internal training on project management should be provided to the Corporate Management team and their deputies.
(i) The report writing template for committees, the Executive and Full Council should be amended to include legal implications comments section. All reports should have legal implications comments and when proposals in a report do not have any legal implications, the comment ‘None’ should be inserted to provide clarity.
(ii) If the WFC project proceed to implementation in the event of planning permission being obtained, an updated report should go to the Executive and Full Council and it should include confirmation of the legal powers on which the agreements were made.
All major projects should have a completed risk management template that identifies all the relevant risks, and which should be supported with contingency plans for managing risks.
(i) Major development projects should have project groups with scheduled meetings and minutes taken.
(ii) Legal Services should seek Lexcel accreditation from the Law Society of England and Wales.
(i) WBC should be joint partners on community engagement on development projects in the borough. If necessary, a developer could be asked to fund any additional staff needed to support the community engagement task.
(ii) WBC should set up a Residents’ Panel to facilitate regular consultations with residents and to use the panel to commence wider community engagement on development projects.
Part II confidential information in reports dealing with development projects should be limited to information that should not be in the public domain at the point in time and should not apply to the entire report.
WBC to consider amending the Ostensible Authority arrangements and instead delegate powers to Officers when considering reports and to stipulate the use of the delegated power in consultation with a named councillor.
(i) In future development projects where a Special Purpose Vehicle company is set up to deliver a project, a risk template must be produced, and a presentation made to councillors, particularly addressing viability and identified risks to the project.
(ii) Consideration should be given to SPV companies providing a bond, insurance or a parent company guarantee, if there is a parent company. If none of these are realistic or achievable, other assurance and protection should be sought and put in place.
When purchasing land in the borough, an internal or external valuation should be sought to assist councillors in making a prudent decision on the purchase.
The Council should avoid appointing statutory officers, especially the Section 151 Finance Officer and the Monitoring Officer onto external companies or trusts with whom the Council has or is likely to have an association.
External training should be organised for Officers and councillors on the Code of Conduct, the Nolan principles and sitting on external bodies as directors of companies or trustees on trusts.
(i) Members of Planning Committee should not participate in an Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s review of a proposed development in which a planning application would be submitted.
(ii) Members of Planning Committee should not sit on an Overview and Scrutiny Committee or Task Group meeting reviewing a development which had been determined by Planning committee. They can only give evidence at such meeting.
(iii) WBC should adopt the Local Government Association’s guidance document 2019 called ‘probity in Planning’ and arrange a presentation on it to Planning Committee members.
(iv) External training should be arranged for members of Planning Committee on the Code of Conduct, the Nolan principles and the guidance called Probity in Planning.
(i) WBC should allocate a reasonable budget to Overview and Scrutiny Committee for their work.
(ii) WBC should allocate a part-time Scrutiny Officer post to Overview and Scrutiny Committee to assist with their work.
WBC should appoint an external facilitator to work with those involved in the project – Officers and the Executive, and the Task Group to rebuild the good working relationships that previously existed.