The third in a series of city council scrutiny meetings intended to satisfy councillors that Exeter Development Fund is a way to put Exeter on the map rather than the council’s financial viability at risk took place last week.
Like the first and second sessions, the committee was offered yet another presentation from the development debt vehicle promoters instead of the critical analysis with which the council should be equipping the committee.
The council’s predilection for predetermining the questions councillors might like to ask has remained unchanged, unlike the composition of the committee, which has thirteen new members (more than half its number) following the May local elections.
If the council had been hoping to dissipate the committee’s focus by choosing this timetable it will be disappointed. New committee member Tess Read was among several councillors from across the political spectrum who ratcheted up the pressure on Exeter City Futures to properly explain its plans.
Contradictions continue thick and fast. After repeatedly being told that the city’s public sector organisations would be in charge (or those which actually invest assets in the fund, which looks increasingly like being just the city council) it became clear that not only would they be outvoted on the fund’s board, all board appointments would be subject to ministerial approval too.
Meanwhile Exeter City Futures is still not voluntarily publishing its board minutes and reports despite promising scrutiny members it would do so. Perhaps the appointment of city councillor Zion Lights to the board, which quietly took place this week, will help it better discharge its information governance obligations?
Only after being badgered by committee member Anne Jobson did the company publish the minutes of its March board meeting, more than three months late. But it still failed to include a report which was discussed at the meeting and has yet to publish anything about the board meeting it held at the beginning of June.
The March meeting minutes nevertheless did include details of a presentation about a predominantly greenfield 60-acre business park development at Peamore in which Global City Futures, Exeter City Futures’ parent company, is involved.
LDA Design, which is also helping Exeter City Futures pitch the fund, is involved in the development too.
The ostensibly eco-friendly business park, which the meeting heard was “less than 10-15 minutes’ walk to the city centre” despite being four miles as the crow flies from the company’s Paris Street offices, unashamedly touts its “proximity to key arterial roads” at the intersection of the M5/A38 and A379.