On the 22 June and July 6 2022, we wrote about Mr David Wimble’s application, as proprietor and owner of the Looker Magazine, to the High Street Fund for nearly £19,000. This money was to assist in the refurb of No 106, Hythe High Street, which had been empty for seven years. The shop is now open, with no sign above the shop, we note.
In our last piece, we noted it was due to go before Overview & Scrutiny Committee on the 13 July 2022, for a deep dive into the application.
As we’ve stated, Mr Wimble was, and is perfectly entitled to apply for funding from the £3m pot of funding, after all to quote Mr Wimble:
“I have got nothing to hide at all, bearing in mind I’m the person who put together the High Street Fund in the first place,”
And sure enough he did not hide his application, in one sense, he just got he’s accountant – Miss Sarah White – to make the application on his behalf, as we made clear in our July 6 blog post.
Cllr Monk (Con) made it clear that the panel making the decision was and is “very small“. It was Cllr Monk alone who made the decision under “the advice of officers“. Cllr Monk goes onto say there was “no political side to this whatsoever” and he continued by saying “anyone who implies otherwise does me an injustice“.
The panel for making the decision is normally Cllr Monk, the portfolio holder – Cllr Wimble, and the Ward Cllr – who in this case was Cllr Georgina Treloar (Green). Obviously, Cllr Wimble as the potential recipient and portfolio holder had to recuse himself, and did so.
The email invitation to attend the approval meeting was sent to Cllr Treloar (Green) (pictured) on the 10 June, and the meeting was held on the 11 June. As Ewan Green, Corporate Director for Place at Folkestone & Hythe District Council, said Cllr Treloar did not pick up the email. Cllr Monk explained with no great precision in the video “it was a matter of circumstances.”
Now Cllr Wimble in a text message to our public face states:
“This has been played out politically by Cllr Treloar, who failed to turn up to the original grant meeting, despite 3 weeks notice“
Cllr Wimble’s statement is untrue, as is made perfectly clear at 26:01 seconds of the video above. Mr Green makes it clear earlier in the video meetings are called “quite quickly as normally the case“. It was called at “very ,very short notice“, but no reasons is given for the urgency.
The decision to grant the award of £18,711 to Mr Wimble’s Looker Magazine, was made by Cllr Monk (below) alone – and we would add, supported by the recommendations of officers.
Regardless of Cllr Monk’s statement about any “injustice“, surely even in his mind he can see how the public might see the decision as being potentially bias, as Cllr Wimble, (Ind) (above) props up his administration. We believe a tighter form of appraisal for such applications ought to be put in place.
Committee members are seen highlighting time and again democratic deficiencies and administrative inefficiencies in the current High Street fund application process. Committee members alerted Ewan Green to the need for greater transparency in cases such as this, where there is a potential conflict of interest.
That it is, and was necessary to raise the points the committee members did, speaks volumes.
This response to concerns over Cllr Monk endorsing funding for a fellow Cllr’s business interests, does not give a great impression of our council on top of it’s game. Time and again, Cllr Monk relies on support from the rationale of “increased footfall“, created by closing one shop, and opening another, with no evidence to support that statement. It would hardly warrant an award for our council as an outstanding economic strategy.
Ewan Green Corporate Director for Place (pictured) made it clear the council will “tighten up” the decision making process on the recommendations of the committee members.
The Chair of the Committee Cllr Keutenius (Lab) (pictured above) ably summed a number of recommendations, so that justice can be done and seen to be done.
All in all, was it right that one man – Cllr David Monk, leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council – who relies on Cllr Wimble’s independent group to prop up his minority administration, be allowed to make a decision alone, on another Cllr’s business interests?
We’ll leave you to consider that.
The Shepway Vox Team
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