8 February 2010

The "secret" sell-off of Peckham Rye's community buildings

I've just arrived back from the latest Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community council meeting. It was, once again, a lively meeting in which a number of important local issues were discussed. However, there was one piece of news which will give rise to significant concern among local residents.

The meeting was addressed by Cllr Tim McNally, the Lib Dem Executive Councillor for Resources, on the council's policy on community buildings. A very revealing moment came when Cllr Gordon Nardell asked Cllr McNally if a group of local residents concerned about local community buildings (which he chairs) could have some information. Cllr Nardell asked for a list of non-housing properties in the area which the council is considering disposing of.

That was all he wanted. A list of local, publicly owned properties which the council is thinking of selling or renting out. As the representative of a party which claims to support openess and accountability, you'd think Cllr McNally would have agreed to the request automatically. But he didn't. Instead he mumbled something which included the words, "borough solicitor", "legal advice" and "commercially sensitive information" and then jumped back into his seat hoping nobody had noticed what he'd said.

Essentially, he was refusing to tell local people which of their local community buildings and assets they can expect to be sold by the council. At the same time though, he is happy to discuss disposals with property developers. This means that the first residents will hear about what is going to happen to local council owned buildings is when the Council's property department deigns to tell us what is going on, often when a deal with developers is already done. This is precisely what lead to we original debacle of the Peckham Rye Common toilets.

Cllr Nardell was very quick to say that he would be speaking to the borough solicitor directly to check that this was indeed the advice he had given. Depending on the outcome of those conversations, we may need to do a little digging of our own in order to get around Cllr McNally's plan for secret sell-offs. Your Peckham Rye Labour Candidates believe that Southwark should be honest and open about their plans for our area, not hiding behind solicitors in the hope of avoiding the views of local people.

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