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Conservatives seek clarity on housing ‘joint venture’

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Conservative Group Housing Spokesman, Cllr. Mary Mears, writes about the Labour Administration’s proposal to set up a housing ‘joint venture’ with Hyde Housing and the decision by the Housing Committee to defer a decision on whether or not to give it the go-ahead.

Council Leader, Warren Morgan, accuses the Conservatives of seeking to “block, frustrate and delay” his Administration’s proposal to create a joint housing venture with Hyde Housing in order to build 1,000 new homes in the city. The Labour Chair of the Housing Committee, where this proposal was debated last week, said we were “playing games” by voting to defer the decision for further information.

I can assure residents that nothing is further from the truth. We agree that in principle a joint venture is an excellent way for the Council to effectively double the return on its investment; however we feel that the proposal has been rushed through and key financial questions remain unanswered.

When over £50 million of public money is at stake it is important that we get this right. Along with the money loaned to the i360, this would bring the Council’s general fund debt to almost £100 million from the Public Works Loans Board. Is Cllr. Morgan seriously suggesting that as opposition councillors we just nod this through without proper scrutiny?

Cllr Morgan also states that this proposal has been known about for some time.

As the Conservative member on the Estate Regeneration Board I received my first detailed briefing on the 5th September with the Conservative Group only receiving a presentation 2 days before the housing committee… which we had to request!

We have been kept very much in the dark about some key points of the proposal – we don’t even know which sites will go into the joint venture, even though I understand they have been discussed for some time. Nor are we happy that the Administration is proposing that the new Board will not contain one single elected councillor!

Some people have compared our decision to call for a deferral to the Conservative Group’s support for the loan to the i360. The key difference in that instance was that we had received numerous detailed briefings from officers and lawyers many months before a decision was made.

Hyde is an ever growing Company involved with many new builds from Saltdean to the King Alfred. I’m sure residents would expect elected members to ensure proper scrutiny and due diligence takes place on such an important decision before any agreement is made.