Homeless deal was given '˜the hurry up'

The controversial decision to move homeless people into the St Michael's Gate estate where the residents are being evicted was rushed through after Peterborough City Council warned that the deal could collapse.

Saturday, 21st January 2017, 1:00 pm
Darragh MacAnthony with a PT front page about St Michael's Gate EMN-161226-183538009

Senior councillor John Peach agreed that the council could speed up a deal with Stef & Philips after he was told that the housing firm would “walk away” from a multi-million pound contract.

An email from council director of governance Kim Sawyer to Cllr Peach, Conservative member for Park Ward, states that without agreeing the deal, Stef & Philips would “walk away from the lease proposals.”

The deal was for the council to spend nearly £3 million over three years to lease properties at St Michael’s Gate in Parnwell where 74 people and their families are being evicted.

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Tony Roberts with residents at St Michael's Gate and neighbours EMN-161113-172505009

The homes will all be used as temporary accommodation for the homeless.

Cllr Peach, as chair of the Sustainable Growth and Environment Capital Scrutiny Committee, was asked by the council on September 27 to grant it permission to invoke ‘urgency’ and ‘special urgency’ on the deal.

Urgency meant that the deal was not included on the council’s forward plan for 28 days in advance of the decision.

Special Urgency meant that the deal did not have to be made public until the day it was signed. Normally it is made public five days before.

Tony Roberts with residents at St Michael's Gate and neighbours EMN-161113-172505009

Asked if special urgency was invoked to reduce scrutiny on the decision, both Cllr Peach and Ms Sawyer insisted that this was not the case.

Cllr Peach said there was “ample opportunity to discuss and scrutinise,” and that “it’s not unusual to get these requests for whatever reason that the council has to move a little bit faster on things.”

Mrs Sawyer said invoking special urgency “did not prevent scrutiny from calling-in the decision or from scrutiny considering the matter.”

The council has always insisted that if it did not do a deal with Stef & Philips, a London borough would move its homeless people into St Michael’s Gate instead.

The disclosure about special urgency comes in a second tranche of emails the Peterborough Telegraph has received from the council after putting in a Freedom of Information request about internal correspondence on St Michael’s Gate.

The emails were redacted in a previous FOI request.

The new emails also include some redactions for “legal correspondence between the Peterborough City Council legal team and legal representation of the client regarding the lease arrangements.”