Report of the Deputy Leader of the Council
The Chairman, with the Committee’s approval, invited any members of the press and public back into the meeting.
The Committee received a report from the Deputy Leader of the Council on Gravitas Housing Limited. The report provided an update on the Wherry’s Lane, Bourne development project, for the period up until 31 August 2020. In addition, the report sought the appointment of four additional directors to Gravitas Housing Ltd.
Gravitas Housing Ltd, a wholly owned Council company, limited by shares was incorporated on 30 January 2017. The purpose of the company was to deliver quality new housing within the District. One scheme, to date, had been approved by Shareholders; Wherry’s Lane, Bourne.
Independent local estate agents had been appointed to market and sell the properties on behalf of the company. There had, to date, been 5 completed sales and 7 deposits secured. The Coronavirus pandemic had had a detrimental impact of the sales forecast, with no sales or deposits between April and July 2020.
The company had been advised to continue with marketing the units for sale, in order to generate capital receipts, to meet the Council loan and other contractual costs.
The Articles of Association for the company stated that the quorum for any decision was three voting Directors. Two of the company’s Directors were no longer in the employ of the Council and had therefore resigned from the company. This had left the Company inquorate, meaning no decisions could be taken, with only one remaining director.
The Committee was therefore asked to make recommendations to Council on the appointment of new directors. The proposals were as follows:
· Councillor Kelham Cooke, Leader of the Council;
· Councillor Barry Dobson, Deputy Leader of the Council;
· Paul Thomas - Strategic Director for Growth; and
· Director of Housing and Property (subject to approval of the post by Council).
It was felt that the proposed appointments would bring political and professional strategic support, which would enable Gravitas Housing Ltd to successfully deliver the Wherry’s Lane development and bring forward proposals for new projects for the Committee’s consideration.
A member queried why two councillors had been added to the directorship, which had formerly comprised Council officers only. The member also asked if there was any update on the Stonebridge Road development.
The Committee was advised that the Stonebridge Road Development was not a Gravitas Housing Ltd project. It was purchased directly by the Council and formed part of the Council’s assets.
It was requested that a business plan be brought forward for the Company; it had been 3 years since the company was formed and a business plan had yet to been seen by Members. It was advised that the Director appointments were required for any business of the Company to continue and put forward any plans.
A non-Committee member asked why political appointments had been suggested and if those named had the appropriate credentials. It was also questioned if there was any conflict of interest of one Director also being the Council’s Section 151 Officer.
The Chief Executive advised that at the time of appointment, the Interim Director of Finance, who was currently the only remaining company Director, had been the Deputy Section 151 Officer. When Mr Wyles resumed his substantive post, he would also then become deputy Section 151 Officer again. The Director for Law and Governance advised that as the Company’s only shareholder was the Council, it was appropriate that a mixture of Councillors and Officers be appointed to its directorship.
1. That the update on the Wherry’s Lane Bourne Development was noted.
2. That the following be recommended to Cabinet as Directors of Gravitas Housing Limited.
a. Councillor Kelham Cooke, Leader of the Council;
b. Councillor Barry Dobson, Deputy Leader of the Council;
c. Paul Thomas, Strategic Director; and
d. Director of Housing and Property.
Councillor Ashley Baxter requested that his abstention from the vote be recorded.