Otterpool Park update: Borrowing, hidden soft market testing and a Dodgy man in charge
To purchase Folkestone racecourse site from the Reuben Brothers for £25 million; which included Monk’s private fishing lake, the council borrowed the money, but they’ve never said who from, nor set out the terms and conditions.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council undertook borrowing away from the public eye to purchase the racecourse. Some district Cllrs repeatedly asked questions about, who the council were borrowing money from? – at what rate? – and how long? However, Council Officers believe it is better for a Cllr not to know, even if the borrowing amounts to £30 – 40 million.
Otterpool Park is moving on at a significant pace. Since it’s phase 1 consultation, which wasn’t a consultation, Otterpool Park LLP has hung out three job vacancy cards on its web window. They require a:
Finance Manager – c.£55,000 – £60,000
Community Services Delivery Manager – c.£45,000 – £50,000
Programme Quantity Surveyor – Competitive package
Back in Nov 2019, the Cabinet and full council gave themselves permission to draw down a maximum of £40 million, from the £100 million, in either 2019/20 or 2020/21. This was clearly set out in Cabinet report Report Number C/19/23, which on page 2 states:
This report makes the case that cabinet should recommend to Council that additional capital funding of one hundred million pounds (£100M) be made available to enable the project, namely the development of Otterpool Park as a garden town to be delivered. However it should be appreciated that this money we will drawn down over a period of up to five years. A rough estimate is that a maximum of £40 million will be required in this or the next financial year, ~(2019/20 or 2020/21) with the remainder over the next four or five years. The amount actually drawn down may change and be dependent, amongst other factors, on contributions from third parties.
On Jan 11, 2020, we informed you the Council had made an offer to the Reuben Brothers of £25 million to the Reuben Brothers for the racecourse.
It was Cllr Ian Meyers (UKIP), then Cabinet Member for Information & Customer Service, who released the confidential information to the world.
Only days after the 11 Jan, Cllrs began asking questions about where the money to buy the racecourse was coming from. All questions asked did not receive a straight answer from Council officers. As we said, perhaps Council officers believe it is better for a Cllr not to know, even if the borrowing amounts to £30 – 40 million.
On the 14th Jan The Ministry for Homes, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) pledged an additional £580,000 of funding to the Otterpool Park project.
On the 4 Feb, Cllr Meyers steps down from his £16,000 cabinet position. The council cited it was “to allow him more time to care for family members.” No mention he’d let the cat out the bag and was reprimanded for by the loss of cabinet seat.
On the 6th Feb 2020 Folkestone & Hythe Council and Cozumel Estates agreed deal for land purchase. On the 27 February, 2020, the Council paid the Reuben Brothers £25 million for the racecourse, according to the deed lodged with the land registry
So where did the £25 million come from to buy the racecourse?
It came from four councils via inter authority lending. This is short-term lending between councils. It is primarily used for short-term finance to help council manage day-to-day cash flows.
The question one might ask is how are these councils in a position to lend so much money after a decade of austerity?
Moving on, on the 27 May, 2020, Folkestone & Hythe District Council’s Cabinet resolved in minute 6, report C/20/02- (amongst other matters) to enter into the Members Agreement for OtterpoolPark LLP; and that the Leader of the Council (David Monk (Con), should appoint two Councillors to the board of the limited liability partnership. Furthermore, the minute stated that the six-month appointments of Andy Jarrett (right below), Chief Strategic Development Officer and John Bunnett, Director of Development would be subject to reappointment on the formation of the full Board.
On the 24 July 2020, Otterpool Park LLP brought £1,250,000 worth of shares in the Council owned company Oportunitas Ltd.
I remember a game we played at school when god was a boy..
It was called Top Trumps quiite lot like this lot from the 80s https://www.simplyeighties.com/top-trumps.php
Why not create a Top Trumps card set for SDC officials (and Councillors) with a Shepwayvox ratings for alleged dodginess, alleged incompetence, alleged lying or alleged ability to make money disappear etc etc?
Nice idea for Christmas ehhhh.
Making money disappear is the key in this case. How long will it take for it to become apparent that several million pounds has gone missing? With the apparently poor accounting and oversight practices of the Council officials, will they notice it in the overall total?
You say “not a sod has been turned”. You then contradict this statement throughout this article ……………….
The quid pro quo for the inter authority loans will be that these Councils have first dibs on any social housing, where they can send their problem tenants.