East Cambs Conservatives this evening agreed to increase tenfold the indebtedness of the council’s trading company (East Cambs Trading Company, trading as Palace Green Homes).
When the company was set up, the council agreed a cap of £5M on its own loan to the company. This evening, Conservative councillors voted to approve a £6.5M loan to the company from the Mayor’s Combined Authority, and to pursue a loan of a further £40M.
Furthermore, the council agreed to delegate power to one officer and one councillor to allow the company to enter into any number of further loans from the Mayor’s Combined Authority, of unlimited value, with no reference to the council as a whole, or to the Shareholder Committee set up by the council specifically to scrutinise the company and its activities. The Shareholder Committee has now given up any pretence to be overseeing in any effective way the operation of the company.
Indeed, the March meeting of the Shareholder Committee was cancelled ‘for lack of business’, just at the very point at which the company was preparing to submit its requests to the Combined Authority for the two additional loans. If the chairman of the Shareholder Committee had been at the full council meeting this evening, I would have said to his face what I said to the meeting – that I think he should be considering his position.