Friday 02nd December 2022,
North Yorks Enquirer

More Splashback from the Pool

More Splashback from the Pool

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, noting the scandal that is brewing around SBC’s failure to close the deal with HQ Hotels over the site of the former Indoor Swimming Pool.

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Following up on earlier coverage of the latest in a long line of failures under the disastrous administration of Labour Leader Councillor Steve SIDDONS, I begin with a word of thanks to those readers who drew my attention to an article in the Scarborough News entitled “Demolition of Scarborough’s 49-year-old former indoor swimming pool is finally due to begin”, published back on 24th February 2022, in which Councillor SIDDONS was quoted.

Before reproducing Councillor SIDDONS’ remarks, let me remind readers that SBC Director Marc COLE, in his Report 22/180 to Cabinet on 28th July 2022, mentioned only one party interested in developing the Pool site – HQ Hotels, a subsidiary of Mr Nick THOMS’s QDOS ’empire’.

On 11th October 2022, in a FOIA response, SBC’s Ellis COOPER revealed that there had, in fact, been four parties who had expressed an interest. School’s out!

Deputy Monitoring Officer Carol REHILL finally confirmed and clarified that in an email to Councillor Mike COCKERILL, identifying those four as:

  • Lidl
  • QDOS (HQ Hotels – Mr Nick THOMAS MBE)
  • Bay Hire
  • Thompson Homes (Brian THOMPSON)

On 25th October, in my article entitled Plug Pulled on Pool Deal”, I confirmed that I am aware of two other interested parties – a total of six.

One might have expected Leader SIDDONS’ to have Mr COLE hauled before Full Council to explain his disingenuousnes – as former Technical Services Director John RIBY was after ‘misleading’ the Council over the infamous Highpoint Rendel sea-defences scandal, which cost then-CEO John TREBBLE (and one or two lesser culprits) his position – and the paying public the better part of £30million).

But, no. Not a word. Which suggests to me that Councillor SIDDONS must have ‘gone along with’ Mr COLE’s Cabinet Report 22/180 and the contention that there was indeed only one interested party (Mr THOMAS) for the Pool site, though (as we shall see) he knew it was false.

Perhaps Councillor SIDDONS (granted the benefit of the doubt) never set eyes on Ellis COOPER’s admission that there were four interested parties, or Carol REHILL’s identification of the four to Councillor COCKERILL. Perhaps he missed my article confirming two more? Perhaps he was holidaying abroad at the time?

However, thanks to the readers I credited at the top of this article, we are now documentarily reminded that Councillor SIDDONS himself was aware of a plurality of interested parties at the beginning of the year: I quote the Scarborough News of 24th February 2022:

In January, Cllr Siddons said “the plan is to clear that site and to tidy it up with some grass”.

“At the same time we are talking to a number of possible investors who have an interest in that site, but no formal agreement has been made,” he added.

Oh, dear.

A “number of possible investors”. Sounds like more than one to me. More than a couple. A few, in fact. Several. A number.

So are we now expected to believe that Mr COLE, whose 22/180 Report recommended the HQ Hotels deal, did not number amongst those “we are talking to”, as claimed by Councillor SIDDONS? Or are we expected to conclude that the left-hand does not know what the right-hand is doing in this muddled administration?

It is now time for me to express my thanks to Councillors who have shared with me the following correspondence between Councillor Bill CHATT [C.I.M.] and Councillor SIDDONS. Councillor CHATT was affronted to learn, not from Councillor SIDDONS or even by email from an Officer, but on Facebook, courtesy of the North Yorks Enquirer and This is the Coast, about the demise of the of the Pool deal.

Councillor CHATT sought an explanation for why members had not been notified ahead of press and public.

This is Councillor SIDDON’s response (actually, a non-response):

Dear Bill,

To answer your questions:

    • Yes, its true that the Investor/Developer has decided to withdraw from the agreement we have spent months negotiating. 
    • A deal which delivered a capital receipt for our council that was approximately three times the land value based on the agreed future use. 
    • A deal which would have created a 4*+ hotel in the town.   
    • A deal that would have created 150 jobs paying the Real Living Wage not the National Minimum wage 
    • A deal that would have created a Hospitality Training Hub in conjunction with the TEC.
    • It was my intention to advise members in my statement to Council which will be published tomorrow.

I will have to disagree with you regarding the way the negotiation has been handled. As always, our dealings are done in a completely professional way and the reason the investor has withdrawn has nothing to do with Scarborough Borough Council but more to do with the way the County Council have handled the Section 24 agreement. Cllr Bastiman is, of course, a member of the Executive so perhaps you should ask him to explain why the developer has no confidence in the way they have handled the deal. Of course, we will still continue to have discussions with the developer but we need North Yorkshire to come to the table and work with us to deliver those benefits for the Borough.

I am angry, bitterly disappointed for the town and for the developer who has expended a great deal of time and money already and for the message it sends out to other investors: North Yorkshire appears to not want the best for this Borough.

As always, good to hear from you.

Steve

Councillor SIDDONS is angry. Diddums. But he makes no attempt to explain why the collapse of the deal was never communicated to elected members – which is what Councillor CHATT wanted to know.

And would the “other investors” to whom the collapse of the HQ Hotels deal “sends out a message to other investors” be those same investors “we” were talking to back in January?

Councillor SIDDONS seems to imply that they have all been driven away – perhaps to a Council where openness, transparency and honesty prevails, as opposed to the secrecy and opacity practised by the SIDDONS cabal?

Councillor SIDDONS misses the point that it was not the prospect of a 4-star Hotel that posed the problem, nor the claimed 150 ‘living wage’ jobs; it was the lack of a proper tender process and the conflicting accounts of how many and which developers had expressed an interest which, in the end, made the whole deal look dodgy – far too dodgy for a man of Mr THOMAS’s integrity. But then integrity has never featured in the SIDDONS administration.

I was tempted to respond myself to Councillor SIDDONS’ bluster, but I rather think readers may prefer Councillor CHATT’s own response:

Steve
Thanks for your drawn out answer.
I asked why members had not been officially informed.
And why you are making statements to This is the Coast but not to members?
We the elected members are elected by the public and not an afterthought for you . . .
But I knew you would find a way to blame Derek* for this?
It’s time to stand up and admit you have not been open and transparent.
In fact, you have been self-publishing and not giving a damn for the elected members who face the public daily.
It does not matter now about your pie in the sky deal with the hotel as they have pulled.
That is, it means nothing the developer has pulled out.
They are no more……
What matters is you were, you say, going to inform members in your Council Statement tomorrow.
With electronic email, you could have informed members the day, the hour, the minute you were made aware?
But you chose not to do that!
Is their any wonder people – the public and Councillors – don’t have any respect for you?
You promised openness, transparency, member involvement.
And you have offered none of the above.
I should really look to Faceook and even the North Yorks Enquirer for what is going on in this town, because you have been next to useless?
This has been badly managed with no back up plan!
A bit like the Flamingo Land site, who said they would not work with your administration.
But you do have your big wheel.
And you have managed to move our town centre way down to the harbour.
Congratulations. You will be a legend in your own tea break.

Bill

{* – Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.] – the former Leader}

Readers who feel they could say more – and more eloquently – are welcome to submit their own responses to the Enquirer, though I fear they may not be printable in a family news magazine such as the Enquirer.

Meanwhile, I hope to report on the somewhat surreal meeting of the Audit Committee (Wed. 27th Oct, ’22) quite soon. That report will mark the return of Mr James CORRIGAN, whose every prediction seems to be coming true . . .

I will be seeking his permission to set his findings before the court of public opinion.

Catch up on the back-story to the Indoor Swimming Pool fiasco here:

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