Friday 23rd October 2020,
North Yorks Enquirer

An Unqualified Disaster

An Unqualified Disaster

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, exposing the seemingly rash appointment of, and delegation of immense powers to, a lamentably under-qualified person.

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As a casual observer of Council activities, I like, from time to time, to trawl through the on-line Disclosure Log, where (selected – i.e. not all) Freedom of Information Requests and Responses are displayed.

Readers probably imagine (as did I) that Senior Officers are appointed on the basis of their qualifications,  experience and up-to-date knowledge of their respective areas of responsibility –  otherwise, the Council could end up with a completely inadequate buffoon occupying a position of considerable ‘power’ and influence.

So the following, FOIA7518, struck me as being of particular public interest:

One would almost automatically assume that Finance Director Nick EDWARDS held appropriate accountancy qualifications and that Legal & Governance Director Lisa DIXON, as a practising solicitor, would belong to the Law Society, hold a Practice Certificate and subscribe to informative local government legal periodicals. Indeed they do.

Both of these have more or less ‘grown up’ with the Council, so Councillors – and, in particular, members of the Appointments Committee – must surely be fully familar with their credentials.

But when it comes to Commercial Director Richard BRADLEY, the situation is somewhat different. Mr BRADLEY is a fairly recent addition to the Executive, so I was particularly interested to examine his credentials.

It appears that Mr BRADLEY holds no special qualifications in relation to commercial property acquisition/management, his sole declared business experience is delegated directorial membership of the universally unpopular Yorkshire Coast Bid Ltd, but at least (we are told) he reads various journals (Private Eye?) – even if he cannot quote one title (Property Weeknot ‘Weekly’) correctly!

This is deeply disturbing because, in April and May 2018, first Cabinet and then Full Council authorised Mr BRADLEY to draw down and invest £30 million from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB), on his own authority, to underwrite the Commercial Property Investment Strategy (CPIS), under the purview of the Property Investment Governance Board (PIGB) and the Property Selection Team (PST) – of which Mr BRADLEY himself was the gaffer.

It is interesting to note that the only elected members to participate in the Property Investment Governance Board (PIGB) were the then-Leader and his Deputy – Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.] and Councillor Helen MALLORY [Con.] – who together constituted the obedient dog that the tail (the Executive Officers) was so vigorously able to wag.

Returning to Mr BRADLEY: Bear in mind that I have previously disclosed Mr BRADLEY’s  past experience in – of all things – waste disposal at Brighton & Hove City Council.

When the SBC Appointments Committee hired Mr BRADLEY, members could hardly have anticipated that Mr BRADLEY’s waste management experience would extend to managing to waste millions of pounds borrowed from the PWLB.

Thus did Mr BRADLEY attract the sobriquet ‘The Brighton Bin Man’.

On 17th September 2018, Mr BRADLEY single-handedly made the Executive Decision to spring £14 million and change purchasing the thoroughly shabby St Nicholas Hotel (which last changed hands for only £7 million and has subsequently been valued at £4-£5 million) to rent it to Travelodge (see also here). Post COVID-19, it may prove difficult to even give it away.

Then-Councillor John RITCHIE [Lab.], to his immense credit, elected to ‘call in’  Mr BRADLEY’s Executive Decision, which  – astonishingly – was subsequently upheld by the Overview & Scrutiny Board, comprising:

[Cllrs ALLANSON and DENNETT are no longer with the Council]
[Cllrs COLLING and RANDERSON are currently Portfolio Holders]

Readers will recall that Travelodge has since made a narrow escape from insolvency by entering into a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) with a large number of creditors, including the Borough Council, resulting in a serious default on rent payments – and word within the hospitality industry is that Travelodge is fighting a rearguard action likely to result in total collapse.

In my view, it would be difficult to identify a more catastrophic saga of incompetence. In mitigation, it should be remembered that elected members appointed Mr BRADLEY on the advice of Officers; delegated to Mr BRADLEY the authority to invest £30 million of borrowed money on the advice of Officers; approved Mr BRADLEY’s choice of investment property on the advice of Officers; and upheld Mr BRADLEY’s Executive Decision on the advice of Officers.

So, I ask you – who is running this pantomime?

It would appear to me that unless Chief Executive Mr Mike GREENE wants his tenure at Scarborough Borough Council to be represented as a humungous blot on his otherwise pristine CV, it is time for him diligently to apply himself to some much-needed waste disposal.

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