Thursday, October 08, 2009

The saga of the future of Kensington Regeneration continues...

On Tuesday evening Liverpool City Council's Sustainable Community Select Committee met and considered (amongst other things) the referral from the Executive Board (Cabinet) to look again at the plans for Kensington Regeneration's succession strategy.

The item itself was exempted, which means the press and public were not allowed to attend, on the grounds that some of the figures were commercially sensitive (I am not quite sure why, it is all tax payers money after all).

However, the Chair of the Committee, Colin Eldridge, allowed Norma Williams (Chair of Kensington Regeneration and Director of the CIC), her husband Alan Grace (also a Director of the CIC) and Richie Keenan (Former Chair and now Vice-Chair of Kensington Regeneration) to speak to the item before the room was cleared.

Subsequently, I spoke at length of my concerns about the value for money of a scheme where 40% plus of the proposed income for Kensington people was to be spent on overheads rather than on locally identified priorities. I cited a couple of examples of current wasteful practices, for instance employing solicitors from Birmingham to attend every board meeting of the CIC and take minutes, type them up, distribute them, and issue agendas at great expense, with a cost to the CIC which I won't detail but which is considerable. Why don't they employ local solicitors if they need legal advice? What is so special about Birmingham? We have solicitors in Liverpool and indeed in Kensington and the things they are asked to advise on are not all that specialist.

For instance, at one CIC meeting, the Chair was unavailable and the Vice Chair had to leave, so one of the remaining Directors suggested they should ask for legal advice about who should now chair the meeting!! (You could not make this up!)

I bet the solicitors were rubbing their hands in glee, fortunately another director stepped forward and explained quite forcibly why this was not necessary.

As to taking notes at meetings and then going away to write minutes and create agendas, why doesn't the CIC employ adhoc agency servies to do the admin for about £20 per hour, or ask their 7 members of staff who are all seconded to Kensington Regeneration to do it for nothing, instead of paying Solicitor's hourly rates for this service?

(These were among the points I raised. I also talked about the fact that the CIC has been renting an office since June, which is not currently in regular use, there being no dedicated staff to work there as yet, the new manager would not start until January if all goes to their plan. Again at a cost to the tax-payer.)

Other members of the select committee raised concerns of their own and finally it went to a vote, where my alternative proposals, to spend the money via the CCIF or Participatory Budgeting with the full engagement of local people (as detailed in my earlier blog), was passed.

This will now go back to the Executive Board to be heard again, with my alternative proposals on the table for consideration. I am expecting it to be on the agenda in a fortnight's time, or at the following fortnight's meeting where I can talk to my amendment.

I have had the agenda for tomorrow's Executive Board in tonight's council despatch and it is not featured there and nobody has phoned or emailed from LCC to advise me that they are taking this item in the morning, which would be the proper thing to do. So I am sure they won't be so crude as to take it in secret tomorrow in an unseemly rush. I may not get on with all the LibDems but I know that amongst the Executive Board are those who put Value for Money and the importance of protecting public expenditure high on their agenda.

So, over the next fortnight I hope to refine and develop the arguments that I will want to make to the cabinet, to convince them of the rightness of my alternative proposals which have already met favour privately with some officers of the council at a high level.

I would like to thank the many local residents, from Edge Hill, Kensington Fields, Kensington and Fairfield who have contacted me to tell me that they agree with me and don't want the CIC to spend nearly half their money on overheads and fat cat salaries when we could spend it all on local priorities.

An important issue that will run and run


Ruth said...

Hi Louise

We are the participatory budgeting unit. We're a national charity project based in Manchester. We support and promote the implementation of participatory budgeting and are the government's delivery organisation for participatory budgeting. If you'd like us to have a chat with you by email or phone or you want us to make the case for PB to any colleagues or sceptics, then we'd be happy to do so. Our website is if you want to find out more.

Good Luck!, Ruth Jackson

steve faragher said...

So it now transpires that Norma, Graham and Ritchie of Kensington Regeneration and the Kensington Regenration Company CIC have been paying Graham, Norma and Ritchie (in the guise of Parks Option Ltd and Sure Options Ltd of which they are directors, company secretary and chief execs) for renting the empty office since June. How Much was it?????

Would they like to pay the rent for my CIC? Our office is full at the moment....

The Officers of KR(ie council secondees) have a lot to answer for here. whatever happened to due diligence.

Louise Baldock said...

Dear Ruth, great to hear from you, I will certainly be in touch and will also encourage our LCC officers to contact you. I know the council is currently considering this very seriously and I have also had a look at the Wirral's scheme, lots to talk about!

Louise Baldock said...

Steve, I do have to correct you, because I am not aware that Richie or Graham are members or directors of the CIC. Although they are of course both on the board of Kensington Regeneration and Parks Options. Only Norma is on all three, that I am aware of. I understand the rent is in the region of £500 per month.

I doubt if they would want to pay the rent to your own CIC office, although as I understand it is something in the region of only £100 per month, it would undoubtedly be a better financial arrangement for the tax payer.

Anonymous said...

There are proposals for participatory budgeting in Liverpool that are to come forward by the end of the calendar year. Several documents make that clear.

scouseboy said...

On a seperate note, I detect some inconsistecy on behalf of Cllr Eldridge.
If the item was exempt, the members of the publis should not have been allowed to contribute,or indeed hear(as they indeed didn't)the discussions of the committee.
And this man aspires to be the next MP for Wavertree!!! The above actions show He cannot even keep to the laid down procedures when he is charing a council committee

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit slow in responding to this post I know but just wondered why the C.I.C doesn't have a secretary for taking minutes and preparing/distributing the agenda for their meetings as other community interest companies do? Do they also employ a catering firm to provide cuppas or distribute water?

Louise Baldock said...

To the anonymous person who is telling us that LCC is considering Participatory budgeting, I am well aware of that and have detailed that aspect of this issue in several posts now. Its consideration is the main reason why I have included it as a possible alternative to the CIC proposals.

The person from the charity picked up on my references to LCCs pilots and has contacted me to offer their support with developing this.

To the anonymous poster who asked why the CIC does not have a Secretary to do these things, I don't know. You would have to ask one of the directors - Laurence Sidorczuk could perhaps help you. I think the Company Secretary is a Birmingham Solicitor, which may be the link as to why they are doing all the paperwork, but what they need is an administrator or clerk, not a formal secretary, to do these duties. Indeed a volunteer from within the directorate could do it, political parties and TRAs for instance all find volunteers to do this.

As to Cllr Eldridge's chairing, I think it is okay to take contributions from the public before you hear the rest of the item in camera, but the decision to allow two members of KR staff to stay in the meeting on the grounds that they are seconded from LCC, was a tad controversial.

Cheers, Louise

wendy said...

Can't help wondering for which community and in whose interest this CIC is working.
'Community Interest Company'
(in the words of Jim Royle)
My Arse!!