As reported yesterday, Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) has started the process of carrying out the long-held ambition of razing the Futurist Theatre to the ground.
The council has claimed there was no need to refer the demolition decision to a full council meeting as the Cabinet had the power to take that action without consulting full council.
On the 12th May 2014 a 6600+ signature petition was handed in at the full council meeting by Cllr Janet Jefferson, of Castle Ward, calling for the Futurist Theatre to be retained by the council:
“We the undersigned petition the Council to retain the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough and support its restoration, expansion and inclusion within the proposed Town Hall and wider development plan.”
The outcome of the full council meeting was that the council resolved:
“(i) the petition be received; and”
“(ii) the petition be referred to the next meeting of the Joint Venture Board, and its response reported back to Members.”
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), which took over from Yorkshire Forward, owns part of the Futurist site and comprises one half of the Joint Venture Board. The HCA have agreed to sell their stake in the Futurist site to the council. It is currently unknown at what point in time the council entered into negotiations with the HCA.
A study of the council’s Constitution reveals the council has certain legal obligations regarding petitions:
“Voting and Petitions”
“iii) to request that a matter be reviewed”
“iv) to require that a matter be the subject of debate by Full Council”
Take a moment to re-read those words. Then take another look at the minutes of the full council meeting of 12th May 2014 and read what was resolved by the council.
It is important to note that full council did not vote on Cllr Jefferson’s motion for the council to retain the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough and support its restoration, expansion and inclusion within the proposed Town Hall and wider development plan, when the petition was presented at the full council meeting.
You will note that the matter has not been reviewed nor has it been debated then voted upon by full council on the 12th May 2014 or at any full council meeting since that date.
It is my belief that the council is currently in breach of its own Constitution with regard to Cllr Jefferson’s petition and motion, and with regard to the demolition of the Futurist, it is acting ultra-vires, beyond their legal powers.
This means is that the decision to demolish the theatre, which was taken by the Conservative-led Scarborough Borough Council Cabinet was illegal.
It also follows that the scrutiny decision to ratify the demolition of the theatre, which was ratified by the Resources Scrutiny Committee was also illegal.
Until full council meets to vote upon the petition handed to the council by Cllr Jefferson and the council acts in a manner consistent with its own Constitution, it appears that the legality of any decision regarding the future of the theatre can be successfully challenged.