North Lanarkshire Council disbands cross-party housing group amid transparency concerns
The Herald has reported that North Lanarkshire Council shut down its own cross-party working group of six local politicians after learning it had been given a briefing from a single private developer.
Senior insiders told the newspaper that the briefing – a presentation on how to fund the potentially £140 million scheme - was “extremely unusual” as no housing officials were present.
Papers show that the working group, chaired by Councillor Gary O’Rorke, was addressed by Peter Martin of a company called Iskra Development on September 2, 2015. The only official present was a minute-taker.
Deputy leader Paul Kelly explained the decision to disband the group after learning of the meeting.
He told The Herald: “I have never been comfortable with the idea that private businesses could effectively make a pitch to a small number of members and I’m determined we will be transparent in all areas.
“That’s why the new leadership team immediately stopped this group and created a formal member/officer working group, which has input from senior officers and which will report to the housing and social work committee before any decisions are made.”
The meeting is now subject to an investigation by the council’s own scrutiny panel, which will be producing a report shortly. Mr Kelly said he was “pleased” the panel was looking at the issue.
The businessman who addressed the group said he had seen nothing out of the ordinary in his presentation.
Mr Martin, a former and current social housing executive, said: “I was working as a consultant and I was asked to offer an opinion about whether it was feasible for the council to build 1,000 homes.
“I certainly was not pitching for anything and it was made clear to me that any work that resulted from the scheme would go through normal tendering processes.”
A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council told our sister publication Scottish Housing News that it remains committed to the housebuilding programme and that the move will not impact its plans to build 1,000 homes in the area.