To consider the Chesterford Research Park (CRP) Future Funding report.
Councillor Reeve presented the report on the future funding of Chesterford Research Park (CRP). He said the report set out the current position on additional funding at Chesterford Research Park and proposed a revised approach to authorising the release of funding. He said the recommendation was not asking for any new funding; members had already approved the levels of funding outlined in the report. He said the current decision making process was slow in comparison to the Council’s partners Aviva, and there was a need to alter this process to ensure decisions relating to future funding of CRP were made in a timely and effective manner. He proposed the recommendation outlined in the report.
Councillor Hargreaves seconded the recommendation.
Councillor Fairhurst said he welcomed the diversification of the Council’s Investments Portfolio but he still had concerns regarding governance arrangements. He said that by approving this recommendation a blank cheque was being written and that the Investment Board’s input would be bypassed. He could not support the recommendation and would be voting against it.
Councillor Hargreaves said Members of the Investment Board would be kept informed. He said that the current process was slow and not good practice when a prompt decision was required, a view expressed and shared by the independent members on the Investment Board.
Councillor Light said a blank cheque could not be written and power should not be held in the hands of only a few Members. Democracy took time and due process had to be adhered to.
In response to a question from Councillor Barker, Councillor Reeve confirmed that investments were funded fifty-fifty by the Council and their partner Aviva.
Councillor Pepper said investment in the sciences was invaluable and urged Members to support the motion.
Councillor Lees said democracy was not about giving everyone a say every single time; authority could be democratically delegated to allow for more effective and efficient decision making.
In response to a question from Councillor Lemon, Councillor Reeve said the interest rate on the borrowing for this investment stood at around 4.5%.
Councillor Barker said the Council loaned money to Aspire at a higher rate. The Director – Finance and Corporate Services agreed and confirmed that the Council also saw a return on this lending.
asked how backbenchers would be kept informed of the performance of
Aspire. Transparency and the reporting mechanism needed to be
improved to ensure all councillors were kept up to date.
Councillor Reeve said all Members would be advised on the performance of Aspire, via the publication of quarterly reports on the Council’s investments.
1. Members approve the allocation of the sum of £17.4 million for future loans to Aspire (CRP) Ltd to be drawn down as required; and
2. That each loan shall be at market rates applicable at the time; and
3. The authorisation of the loan(s) is delegated to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Leader, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Budget and the Portfolio Holder for the Economy and Investment.
The motion was carried 30 for, 2 against and 1 abstention.