New council leader says ‘I share your concerns’ as he pledges inquiry into Fenland Council’s role in courthouse sale
PUBLISHED: 09:38 09 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:39 09 May 2014
A full scale inquiry has been promised into the role Fenland Council played in the sale of the redundant Wisbech courthouse.
Newly elected leader John Clark told a questioner at tonight’s full council meeting “I share your concerns” about the events leading up to the sale.
He was tackled during the open forum session by independent Wisbech councillor Virginia Bucknor who pressed for an inquiry.
She said Freedom of Information requests had already gone to the Ministry of Justice over the sale and “our MP Steve Barclay is, as you all know, seeking answers.”
She said: “No one can be in any doubt that the decision by the Ministry of Justice to sell the building for £150,000 – when they had the option to test the market by taking it to auction- is questionable.”
Cllr Bucknor: “This is a major imposing building in the centre of Wisbech, and is another building now scrubbed from our history. We do need transparent information about the decision by Fenland Council not to buy it – and we need detailed information from the Ministry of Justice.”
Cllr Bucknor said questions needed still to be answered by the ministry about why they did not consult with Wisbech Town Council (who had earlier expressed an interest) and why they accepted an offer prior to auction.
Fenland Council had originally planned to buy it for £100,000, providing the police station relocated.
However the council claimed Cambs Police refused to give details of when they might move, and so withdrew their offer – and a short while later it was advertised to go to auction.
On the day the auction house announced a series of open days for prospective viewers the House of Commons was told it had been sold to Wisbech entrepreneur John Foster for £150,000.
Cllr Clark told Cllr Bucknor: “I too share your concerns over the courthouse sale episode. I have already asked for a full briefing from officers.”
He said it was possible the overview and scrutiny would be asked to look at the issues surrounding the sale.
“I am determined to get to the bottom of this by whatever means is best,” said Cllr Clark. “I absolutely support looking at it in more detail and once I have that detail I will take action through whatever route to get it sorted.”
Cllr Bucknor said: “People in Wisbech are certainly not happy. Most find it incredulous and are putting two and two together and making 27 and assuming something highly questionable.”
She told Cllr Clark: “It is early days. I will wait to hear from you.”