The controversy surrounding the sale of land in Lichfield to a housing association is set to cost taxpayers more than £100,000.

The land at Netherstowe which had been earmarked for housing

A decision was made to sell the land at Leyfields and Netherstowe to Bromford in 2018, but no public consultation was carried out as required by the Local Government Act 1972.

An external investigation has since been carried out, with planning permission for both sites also withdrawn.

But a report to Lichfield District Council’s cabinet by leader Cllr Doug Pullen has revealed that while discussions have taken place with Bromford to cancel the sale, the local authority will need to hand over a six-figure sum as a result.

“Subject to approval, it is recommended that the council pay reasonable costs to Bromford which amount to £116,856.97.

“This is to cover its costs in connection with the transfer of land and the aborted planning and site investigation.

“Work is ongoing to consider if there can be a claim on the council’s professional indemnity insurance to cover any or all of these costs but that will depend on the outcome of the external investigation and whether there is evidence of any maladministration or professional negligence.”

Cllr Doug Pullen, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Pullen’s report added that the current cabinet’s view on the sale of the land was at odds with those of the previous Conservative leadership team at the local authority led by Cllr Mike Wilcox.

Doug Pullen

“No council would wish to find themselves in this position. Mistakes have been made and the process has led to distress for members of our community and wasted time, energy and abortive costs for a valued partner.

“This is genuinely regretted.

“The legal position is clear – in consultation required by statute the council is under a duty to consult meaningfully.

“While other common law requirements of meaningful consultation have been adhered to, the primary requirement, that consultation must be at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage, has clearly not been.

“Not only is this wrong, and needs to be corrected, but it also exposes the council to risk of legal challenge.

“It is preferable to address the implications of the errors made and deal openly and transparently with this thus negating the risk and necessity for legal challenge from any of those involved.

“The most fair and transparent way to address this issue was to discuss with Bromford the cancellation of the contract that, following a cabinet decision in 2018, was legally, and in good faith, entered into with them.

“This is the preferred route for the present cabinet who have made their position on the development of this and indeed any council owned open space clear – this is not something they wish to see in Lichfield district.”

Cllr Doug Pullen, Lichfield District Council

The report will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on 11th May.

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35 Comments

  1. Jesus – even after his own party kicked him out, Wilcox has still managed to cost the council money. First Friarsgate, now this.

    Wilcox is a one man disaster zone. How much has his mistakes and ineptitude cost so far??

    The people of Burntwood – you have been warned.

  2. “Cllr Pullen’s report added that the current cabinet’s view on the sale of the land was at odds with … the previous leadership team led by Cllr Mike Wilcox”

    Is Mr Pullen happy to endorse Mr Wilcox as a Conservative Party candidate for the Staffordshire County Council elections?

  3. That’s right council taxpayer – you have to pay back £2 per household for this mistake under the Conservatives. Oh, and they now have to take £527,000 out of their plans for capital expenditure. This is because the sale (not sure how likely it was that residents would want to vote to build on their green space, mind you, it tends not to be a popular idea) did not go through.

    The investigation into what went wrong is in its early stages, but it is obvious that there were some very basic mistakes made early on. 1 – is the inability to follow the legislation local authorities must follow ever since 1972, namely that the proposal “be advertised in two consecutive weeks in a newspaper circulating in the area in which the land is situated and consider any objections to the proposed disposal which may be made to them”. And 2 – to have a simple check list of when actions are done. I would have thought the Conservative Cabinet could at least do no. 2 even if they never read the small section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972!

    The fact is that because the LibDem/Conservative Coalition and Conservative Governments have cut local councils’ funding by 60p in every pound since 2010 so it Is not surprising that 12,000 public spaces have been disposed of by councils since 2014/15.

    Of course, as usual, Lichfield District’s MPs are silent on this blunder. Can you imagine how Mr Fabricant would be jumping up and down if it had been Labour Councillors that had wasted £1000,000?

  4. So Lichfield council tax payers have to cope with yet another pantomime regarding land sales.
    What a pity we have no newspaper to report this situation. Many older people do not use the internet.I am an older person so I can say that with confidence.
    What a pity the law does not allow us to say what many people think.

  5. Heads MUST roll ? We can’t continue to have this behaviour going on secretly by our elected councillors can we ? It seems Lichfield is run by the Raving Loony Party without our knowledge !!!! And we wonder why less residents bother to vote at all ? Sort it out by asking the responsible councillors to pay the bill ? SORTED !!!

  6. To the soon-to-be-ex-Chief Executive of LDC and to Cllr Wai Lee-Ho – this is why it is important for questions to be asked!

    The arrogance of those who do not believe the council and the actions of its officers and elected members should be held to account at every opportunity is staggering.

    But it is also what we have to expect from LDC.

    It also what we have come to expect from a certain type of councillor, who does little to effectively engage with the residents of the area and is simply just another bum on a seat to ensure the majority party have a safety net to avoid proper scrutiny and who cannot be challenged when they get things wrong.

    The fact that this particular majority party has consistently got things wrong over the last decade and more shows exactly why we have this particular farcical situation, that once again will cost the residents, but also a long list of failures and ridiculous decisions that range from Friarsgate to disabled parking provision, from abandoning the old library to failure to ensure IT equipment is properly utilised by elected members.

    Sadly, I cannot see a positive way forward as the majority party remains unaccountable and unchallenged on a sufficiently large enough scale to make any difference.

  7. This is maladministration, the councilors and officers involved should be held accountable and cover the costs not the tax payers.

  8. I feared when this was first reported it could be an unbelievable disaster for the tax payer. I’m surprised the costs aren’t actually higher than the figures reported.

    There is no accountability.

    Premiership city with non league management. I wonder if that nice Mr Mourinho fancies a career change

    Given that isn’t going to happen just have to accept failures will continue to happen?

  9. This is reminiscent of the mess Burntwood Town Council was left with after the Tories were ousted at the last election.
    The incompetence and errors that have had to be rectified by the Labour group have been astounding in Burntwood.
    Let’s also not forget that Cllr Ho is of the view that those of us in opposition at LDC should not be asking questions about this, lest the public find out presumably.
    Thank goodness for scrutiny. It’s the only way the taxpayer would find out what is happening with their cash.

  10. Taking the background of apathy and incompetence (at best) as read, where has this figure of £117k in outlay come from? Has anyone actually verified it? Can we the taxpayers see the bill before we pay it? Or will this unsurprisingly prove to be the old government favourite, “commercially sensitive information”?

  11. So according to his statement the contract was signed in 2018, I thought the council had no idea when or who signed the contract?

    Without the proper consultations surely the contract is null anyway as this should have been signed off before a signature on the dotted line?

    Whomever signed the contract should be held accountable, as should the councillors. Perhaps remove their expenses as a ‘sanction’ a la universal credit until their debt is paid off rather than leaving taxpayers on the hook!

    The conservatives are rotten from the top to bottom.

  12. How many of these councillors would do the job if they were not getting expenses. They keep their distance from the public and in my experience, do not respond when asked about various issues… Michael Fabricant seems to sit on the fence these days. There needs to be changes, we need a more approachable council. Too much secrecy.

  13. I have been following developments over the past few months relating to the sale of public open space land at Leyfields and Netherstowe. Furthermore, I have listened to the debates at the Audit and Member Standards Committee. Councillors and members of the public have raised the issue of naming of individuals at both officer and member level. What really annoyed me were the comments of Diane Tilley about “the need to protect her workforce” and for there to be no bloodletting.We as council tax and general ratepayers pay her salary of £118000 per annum together with the salaries of other officers. She and her staff are answerable to the people who pay her salary.Stuart Evans produced a report which
    failed to name the individuals concerned. The terms of the enquiry were never made public. How can you possibly have an enquiry without naming the individuals (at both officer and member level) who were responsible.? Councillor Doug Pullen has today issued a statement on compensation payments which reads as follows:-“Work is ongoing to consider if there can be a claim on the council’s professional insurance to cover any or all of these costs , but that will depend on the outcome of the external investigation and whether there is evidence of any maladministration or professional negligence.” The insurers will expect total transparency from Lichfield District Council and the situation will not have been helped by the Chief Executive’s ill judged remarks on protecting her staff.
    I should add that I have undertaken a thorough forensic research on events leading up to the Leyfields and Netherstowe fiasco. Lichfield District Council records have provided me with a veritable cornucopia of evidence. The contact of sale document dated 31st July 2020 between Lichfield District Council and Bromford Housing Group was provided under the provisions of The Freedom of Information Act 2000.I have circulated copies of my report to several interested parties. Let me be clear I know the names of all those involved at both officer and member level. The scandal regarding Leyfields and the attempted cover up puts Friarsgate in the shade. In the case of Friarsgate it was my intervention and the pressure put on Lichfield District Council by the Information Commissioner’s Office which forced the release by LDC of the financial appraisal for Friarsgate. What did the appraisal show.? Namely the scheme was never viable from day one.How many officers lost their jobs as a result of Friarsgate.? None I seem to recall.!!!

  14. Makes one consider that this is just the tip of the Iceberg? What a total fiasco. Wonder how more major failures are hidden away in the Annals of LDC which of course we as Council Tax Payers cover the never ending failures.

  15. Leslie Bache, please put your findings in the public domain as our current overlords will never do such a thing.
    Also please get in touch with mr fabricant, he’s our only hope!

  16. Do not forget folks, to vote someone else onto this and other councils!
    Unless you do then this will continue to be”business” as usual!

  17. Biggus dikkus – Mr Fabricant? Seriously!

    What I would like to know is given that Bromford will be fully aware of the ins and outs of such a deal why they weren’t aware or bring to the attention of LDC their failings or was it a case that they did know and chose to ignore so they could get their hands on the land? Are Bromford not equally responsible and therefore why should they be entitled to any compensation?

    Leslie Bache if you are aware of who the individuals are and the information was legally obtained i.e. freedom of information, then why not share it with the rest of the concerned taxpayers?

  18. I wonder, Alan, if things ARE still ‘business as usual’ or if the new leader, Pullen, is in the process of uncovering messes left by previous councillors!!!! He reversed the decision to shut Friary Grange, 2 Directors disappear, then apparently uncovered the lack of consultation….and then the CEO disappears!!!

  19. The following points need to be cleared up.
    1. Who initiated discussions on the sale of the land-Bromford or someone at Lichfield dc?
    2. If it was Bromford, whom did they contact at the council?
    3. If it was the council, who gave authority to do this?
    4. Who drew up, and who signed the contract?
    5. Are the conservative councillors in Lichfield so disorganised that the new Cabinet really wouldn’t know about these deals?
    The mind boggles!

  20. Ann S is right. Where is Bromford’s input in all this fiasco. They are a large, and one would have hoped, efficient competent Housing Association. Surely they should also have been aware and verified the need to undergo public consultation before attempting to buy these sites. They have been invited to make a comment. So far none has been forthcoming.

  21. Biggus dikkus and Ann S. Please be patient. It is all a question of tactics. Don’t prematurely disclose your hand when you are negotiating. I have Lichfield District Council in just the position where I want them to be. I will continue to shadow every move that they make and if they step out of line there will be a drip drip drip of information. I can understand the sheer frustration of many people in Lichfield when they sought information from officers at LDC only to be met with constant stonewalling. I know from personal experience in my dealings with them over Friarsgate. In the end I was successful through sheer persistence and hard work. As they say, the truth will out.
    In the case of Leyfields and Netherstowe what I did notice was the residents of Lichfield (who receive no renumeration) seemed to understand the provisions of Local Government Act 1972 yet the officers(who are paid) did not appear to have a grasp of the basic principles of the legislation. Looking at the various committee meetings on Zoom have been most instructive. You will see various councillors behaving like Pavlov’s dogs and accepting the advice from officers. It didn’t do them much good in Friarsgate or Leyfields. Wrong advice offered which was acted on. No amount of training of officers or members will remedy this situation. Bear in mind that the training is provided by the officers.!!!
    Please view the next meeting of Lichfield District Council Cabinet on 11th May. I think that it could be highly entertaining. Please read the report for the meeting and especially 2.4 Recommendations. I do not wish to be accused of trying to pre empt a committee decision making item so I will not be commenting .
    Several good points made by Lichfield FCA on Bromford Housing Group. The sale contract dated 31st July 2020 between Lichfield District Council and Bromford Housing Association needs to given more prominence to enable the people of Lichfield to read through it.Likewise a copy of the planning application made by Simon Oakley on behalf of Bromford Housing Group and dated 13th August 2020. Under 23 of this application (Pre -application advice) there are details of meetings which took place between officers of LDC and Bromford Housing. The name of a currently serving Lichfield District Council officer is mentioned. This seems to be at variance with what we have been told.

  22. AnnS I know Mr opportunist fabricant won’t be of any help, autocorrect removed the apostrophe from fabrican’t unfortunately. Keep up the good work Leslie

  23. Biggus Dickus. Don’t worry there are more revelations to come.!!! Everyone who has the interests of Lichfield at heart keep up the fight and redouble your efforts. Make sure that Leyfields and Netherstowe remains the number one news story.

  24. No local newspaper, so I knew nothing about this appalling fiasco. I would have suggested that in the interests of the residents of the Lichfield and Burntwood area, the Council could be encouraged to support and campaign for a local free newspaper. This is unlikely as they won’t have the funds to help in this endeavour after they have paid their legal costs. Oh, and of course they wouldn’t support any move to enable more residents to know what is going on because we little people don’t need to know, we only need to know that we have to pay council tax. John R

  25. @John Robinson – something a little ironic about your comment on one publisher’s site demanding another publisher.

  26. John – top tip: take a look through the archives of Lichfield Live, it has been campaigning hard on behalf of the people of Lichfield for many years and has proved far more effective at asking the difficult questions than the local paper that used to be published here. Bookmark this website, it is all the local news you will need and the type of high quality, independent journalism that Lichfield and District needs.

  27. It is a very difficult problem, John Robinson. Local newspapers, which were able to provide in depth reporting, moved to an advertising based income. Social media and on line advertising, especially house agent sales, quickly moved to the internet. No advertising, no newspaper. It was far more inclusive to have a proper vehicle of information as were local newspapers. It was also a different physical experience to have a newspaper copy that you could readily refer to. The councils are probably pleased with this development. How they see scrutiny is hard to define but having us as ‘mushrooms’ (in the dark and fed on ????) likely suites them. We live in an age of social media. Instant, largely meaningless and very transitory. Councils can ignore us with impunity. If Wilcox is not an example then what is?

  28. The meeting of the Lichfield District Council Cabinet on 11th May 2021 was a total whitewash which I expected. The councillors were full of regret and admitted that ” mistakes and errors were made in the case of Leyfields and Netherstowe.” This is a total understatement and I would use the “I” word instead of mistakes and errors. At the meeting Councillor Pullen stated that the contract for sale was signed by an officer of Lichfield District Council. As the sale contract is now in the public domain why was Councillor Pullen so reluctant to name the position of the officer at the council or even name the councillor. The name of the officer is in the public domain and has been circulated on social media.
    What was extremely interesting to note were the names of the attendees on officer side of the Cabinet meeting. The Chief Executive was in attendance but said nothing. But where was the Monitoring Officer.? She is the person at the heart of the Leyfields and Netherstowe scandal. One of the functions of the Monitoring Officer is to report to the Council and the Executive in any case where she is of the opinion that any proposal or decision of the local authority has given rise to any illegality, maladministration or a breach of the statutory code under Sections 5 and 5A of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

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