Answers are still needed on how a controversial deal to sell public open space in Lichfield came to be agreed, a councillor has said.

The land at Netherstowe earmarked for housing

Members of Lichfield District Council’s audit and member standards committee were discussing an external investigation into the proposed sale of land at Leyfields and Netherstowe for housing.

The agreement was made without the proper consultation as outlined in the 1972 Local Government Act or the knowledge of the current leader of the local authority.

The external investigator has made a number of recommendations to ensure similar mistakes are not made in future – but the report stopped short of identifying who had been responsible for the sale being agreed without the proper processes being followed.

Cllr Steve Norman, leader of the Labour opposition group, told the committee that questions still needed to be answered.

Steve Norman

“There seem to be some very basic things that didn’t happen – ignorance of the 1972 Local Government Act and the lack of consultation there.

“It’s very odd that that should have been missed.

“It’s all very disappointing that it happened and it will no doubt cost this council money.

“It was a previous leader of the council in 2018 and I wonder if he should be before a scrutiny committee or this audit committee when the time comes?

“We will want to know who didn’t do what and when they didn’t do it at some point in the future – let’s not pretend that we don’t want to pursue that further.”

Cllr Steve Norman

Planning permission for housing on both sites has now been dropped, but details of any financial cost to the local authority are expected to be outlined in a future report to the cabinet.

But Diane Tilley, chief executive of Lichfield District Council, said that pursuing “bloodletting” would not aid the ability to learn lessons from the episode.

“I will need to understand what benefit it is to know who did what?

“This is an exercise in learning for the council. I’ve publicly stated that none of the officers involved are any longer working for this council.

“I need to be protecting my workforce to the extent that this is not about – to use a dramatic term – bloodletting.

“If I can understand why it was needed to be known who the people involved were then I can answer that question.”

Diane Tilley

Cllr Norman said he remained hopeful that the full story of how the deal came to be agreed would come to light.

“I know that it’s always been the case that the person who causes the problem is no longer with the local authority – I’ve been here long enough for that to be a regular thing.

“But there are some political answers we will want and hopefully we’ll get them at some point at the future.”

Cllr Steve Norman

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  1. How many times when an organisation has cocked up do we get the response that it will be a ‘learning opportunity’? It’s a way of avoiding blame being admitted, or holding someone in particular responsible. How was it that a previous cabinet approved the land sale, but the current cabinet firmly denies knowing anything about it, despite the previous cabinet chair still being around, as it were? It was only sold just over two years ago; hardly buried in history.

  2. An extraordinary comment by Diane Tilley. As we are seeing with Johnson’s suspect dealings, there is always the suspicion of self interest and quid pro quo arrangements. Bloodletting! I don’t think so. This is not just a mistake, it was an attempt to bypass the law; possibly for personal gain. Why would she want to suppress investigation into wrongdoings. This is not decades ago, it is recent. Is she attempting to protect someone or her parties lack of integrity? Well Ms. Tilley, the truth only hurts those who deserve it. We are up to the neck with the councils failings. And you want to sweep this issue under the carpet? Anything else need burying?

  3. Get that Tory campaigner back on the case! He managed to prevent his own party from selling off the land and building over it, so maybe he can find out who did what and why. He’s already called for Councillor Eadie to resign over this so if we get him involved in a Hercules Parrot kind of way he could probably quickly get to the bottom of things and sniff out any wrong-uns!!

  4. Obviously took the same course on how not to answer a perfectly straightforward question as “Our Glorious Leader”.

  5. This is not bloodletting and it is not party politics, despite what a Conservative councillor was claiming on social media. This is about finding the right answers to the right questions, it is about doing what the public expect LDC to do.

    At present, only Lichfield Live is effectively holding LDC to account on this and asking the questions that remain unanswered.

    This is about us, as voters, council tax payers and residents of LDC, having confidence in the way the authority is operating. At the moment that confidence is quickly eroding and that has nothing to do with party politics. It is purely down to the fact that we have little trust in anything LDC, its councillors and its officers are doing.

    Accountability is not bloodletting and it certainly isn’t playing party politics.

  6. Lichfield District Council has YET AGAIN shown itself to be completely inept. They are however, extremely capable of being able to brush their mistakes under the carpet (practice makes perfect, I guess).

    Dianne Tilley is completely missing the point. COMPLETELY. We need to know the exact details of this, I’m the spirit of openness and transparency. The public trust in this council is already at rock bottom, and here we have a chief exec telling us she isn’t prepared to hand over the details unless there’s a “good reason”.

    The arrogance is truly staggering.

    We mess up, and squander you money yet again. However, we’re not going to give you a full explanation unless you beg.

    Please people – walk up to this absolute mess of a council. I’m tired of them wasting my money on stilly mistakes and corrupt decisions, and that is what I will NEVER vote for this council again.

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