by Anood Al-Samerai on 30 July, 2014
This has always been a key priority for me as a local Liberal Democrat councillor and Leader of our council group. This week I sent the letter below to the Council Leader to follow up various discussions which I have been having and to push for progress.
I am following up a comment which you made at a hustings and an assurance which Cllr Livingstone gave at a council assembly. I have also raised my concerns with the Chief Executive.
I think we all agree that the systems of rents for council properties is unhelpful and unclear for the voluntary sector and appears murky and unsupportive for local businesses as well. You know all too well the Scout group and the wide variety of historical rents being paid by different Voluntary and Community Sector groups. I know that businesses next door to eachother are treated very differently – often benefiting the larger chains which can negotiate better deals – and this leads to real tension.
I have, on numerous occasions, asked for information about different rents and been told either that this is too commercially confidential or that I wouldn’t be able to understand because leases are all so different. It seems to me that there is always something very wrong when a pricing structure is not open and transparent and everything behind closed secret doors certainly causes tensions within the two sectors. Cllr Livingstone did say the business rents and processes would be reviewed, but I don’t know if this ever happened. And you said clearly that this was an issue for the voluntary sector which the council ‘had not got right’.
Would an independent audit be possible so we could get to the bottom of who is being charged what and why, with an outcome of a clear and transparent process for anyone trying to rent council premises? I believe that an independent audit would be the right thing to do and would help an awful lot of VCS groups and businesses. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and hope that this is an area where real progress could be made.
Councillor Anood Al-Samerai
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Riverside Ward
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group
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