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James Flanagan on the latest Oval Chalet developments

December 3, 2015 8:30 AM

James Flanagan at Westminsterletter to the Kentish Gazette:

Dear Sir,

Your front page last week asked a very good question regarding the land at the Oval Chalet site, "So what IS it worth?" It is certainly a question that increasing numbers of residents are asking.

The Council insists that 'Best Value' for the site has been achieved, but there are claims that the land value could be eight times higher. I agree with the Gazette that an independent valuation is essential to determine this.

Other questions need to be urgently answered about this controversial land sale too.

Of crucial importance, will the Council review its contract sales process as a matter of priority?

Councillors and council officers have referred to mistakes being made during the Oval sale, not least the lack of conditions to safeguard open space at the site.

If a private business had realised mistakes had been made after an important sale, its internal audit team would soon be asking questions!

Internal audit would be brought in by management to review the whole process and advise where things had gone wrong.

I believe the same principle should be applied in this case. Considering its public role, it is arguably more important for the Council to do this. It needs to be done for good governance - and it needs to be done in public.

Carrying out a review is not about apportioning blame. It is about understanding where (or if) the process went wrong; where it can be corrected and where it can be improved.

Yet, there have been no signs that the Council has any intention of reviewing its sales process.

Whatever the outcome of the Oval site, the Council must look at the way it sells assets and how mistakes made in this case can be avoided on future sales. After all, when the Council sells land or buildings, they are not privately owned. Moreover, they are owned by us, the public, to which the Council is always answerable. It would be wise for the Council to consider that.

James Flanagan

Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson, Canterbury and Whitstable