The report into the Tesco deal
has been published. The EDP says "Store deal secrecy slammed"
and that it reveals that discussions between the council and company were kept "within a small circle of members and officers." The BBC says "Members kept in dark over pact".
The report itself is 40 pages long with over 140 pages of other documents attached. Having read through it my initial thoughts are that the Council has been done up like a kipper. It had no experience of dealing with this kind of company and relied on external advice from lawyers and advisors without properly discussing it with the elected councillors. Unfortunately Tesco refused to provide any assistance with the report and despite the investigators being aware of "rumours and supposition" of "inducements or benefits" it did not , surprise surprise, find any evidence. The report does show that there was intense pressure put on the Chief Executive Bruce Barrell to sign the document after the election but before the new administration took power. There is also evidence of Tesco "playing the District and County Councils off against each other", "Tesco told the County officers that the proposal had 150% support from the District Council" even though it not yet been formally discussed.
There are numerous examples of incompetence and naivete by officers and councillors. For instance the Council as Landowners agreed as part of the deal to sell land to Tesco not to promote other council land for a supermarket, then the Council as Local Planning Authority wanted to amend the Local Plan and develop a Planning Brief for the Station Road site. Who has the most authority? Tesco!
Watch out for more comments as I wade through the piles of paper!