To consider the Executive decision to remove the requirement for a payback clause on the grant of £500,000 towards the provision of a running track at Carver Barracks.
In response to a question from the Chairman, Councillor Ranger summarised the history of the proposed running track, and the issue of the clawback clause. He said there was widespread support for the running track, as demonstrated by previous studies and the canvassing of athletic clubs opinions. He added that a motion to withdraw the grant was defeated at Council on 21 February. Since the original agreement, it had become apparent that the ‘payback clause’ was a sticking point and if the Council was to break the deadlock to ensure the project moved at pace, the clause needed to be removed. He said the MOD had confirmed public access time (weekdays 4.30pm to 9.00pm; weekends 9.00am to 6.00pm) to the proposed running track and they would embark on an information campaign once the project was underway.
The Director – Corporate Services said Heads of Terms had previously been agreed back in November 2017 but a new agreement would be put in place if the decision to remove the payback clause went ahead.
Members discussed support for the running track, and it was noted that news of the proposal had been welcomed by clubs, local newspapers and the general public.
Councillor Lemon said he supported the running track but wanted to know why the MOD would not accept a payback clause when there were no guarantees that Carver Barracks would remain open to the public in perpetuity. He asked whether there was a way to safeguard the Council’s money without delaying the construction of the track.
Councillor Knight said the Council’s grant to the running track was not a financial investment but rather an investment in a community facility that could be enjoyed by residents. She stressed that this was not a joint venture and it would be up to the MOD to run and maintain the running track. The MOD had lost confidence due to the Council’s procrastination and if the payback clause was removed from the agreement, the construction of the track could commence immediately.
The Chairman said he had heard reports that local athletic clubs had not been approached by the Council and a lack of engagement had taken place. He asked if this could be rectified.
Councillor Ranger said it would have been inappropriate to correspond on this matter whilst the process was open and the issue unresolved, but he would certainly engage with stakeholders when agreements were in place.
In response to a Member question, Councillor Jones said the insertion of a clawback clause was a flawed concept as it rendered the grant unusable. He said an organisation could not spend the grant on building the track if they had to keep the said grant in reserve to cover the clawback clause. He said he had raised this issue in October 2018.
Councillor Light proposed that the decision was referred back to Full Council for reconsideration, where the new Heads of Terms could be examined.
The motion was worded as follow,
“Scrutiny Committee requests Full Council to review the revised Heads of Terms which propose a grant aiding the building of the running track at Carver Barracks with the view of making a recommendation to Cabinet.”
Councillor LeCount seconded the motion.
Councillor Barker requested a recorded vote.
For the motion:
Councillors LeCount and Light
Against the motion:
Councillors Barker, Davey, Davies, Harris, Lemon and Oliver.
The Chairman proposed that the Committee advise the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Partnerships to engage with clubs and respond to their enquiries.
Members discussed the proposal but felt the assurances from Councillor Ranger regarding the Council’s plans for public engagement were sufficient and no formal resolution was passed.
The meeting ended at 7.45pm.