At Tuesday night’s specially convened meeting of Haringey Council’s Executive, the concerns of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee over a proposed grant to the Haringey Business Development Association were upheld.

Last week’s special Overview & Scrutiny Committee hearing considered the original decision of the Labour Executive, in response to a call-in by backbenchers. Cllr Matt Davies (Fortis Green) and Cllr David Winskill (Crouch End), Lib Dem members of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, had argued for the issue to be debated in public. However, after a lengthy discussion on the matter, the item was debated in private due to a technicality.

Overview & Scrutiny referred the decision back to the Executive to reconsider, with the recommendation that the funding should not be granted until a full financial appraisal had been undertaken. The recommendation was purely advisory as the powers of Overview & Scrutiny are limited but at Tuesday’s meeting of the Executive this recommendation was accepted. Taxpayers’ money now will not be committed unless a convincing business case is provided.

Cllr Matt Davies (Lib Dem, Fortis Green), who was at the special Executive meeting to see the conclusion of the Overview & Scrutiny Committees call-in, comments:

“It is good to see that the Executive have taken on board the concerns raised during the call-in of this item. However, it does highlight the relative impotence of the Overview & Scrutiny call-in procedure in Haringey, as the recommendations we made were only advisory and need not have been adopted.”

The Liberal Democrat opposition have been working hard to force this debate into the public arena following Labour leaks to the newspapers. Finally, last night the Executive agreed to hold their discussion in public with former Labour Leader George Meehan leading the charge. Cllr Meehan said that it was time to stop hiding away and later admitted that the outgoing Chief Executive’s support for the HBDA project had been lukewarm while maintaining he did not believe it had been a factor in his departure.

Cllr Wayne Hoban (Lib Dem, Alexandra), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who was also present, comments:

“I am delighted that at last there has been some sort of public debate on this issue. My Lib Dem colleagues have been working hard to get at the truth, which has been blocked through exempt papers and private discussions. Finally, some of the issues have been brought out into the open, although full publication of all documents which are not legally exempt is now essential.”

Cllr David Winskill (Lib Dem, Crouch End), Overview & Scrutiny Committee Member and Lib Dem Spokesperson for Regeneration, comments:

“I am glad it is now clear that this project which would use a considerable sum of taxpayers money is going to be properly assessed. There has been no full business case or justification presented to the Council. The Lib Dems fully support policies that encourage small businesses in the borough, but any initiatives must be well thought out and assessed with proper due diligence: we must know how and if they are going to work before spending Haringey residents hard-earned cash.”