On Wednesday 17th May, I planned to ask questions to Manchester Council about the recent shock closure of Ladybarn Community Centre. At the last minute, council leader Richard Leese cancelled all of my questions and I was not allowed to speak.Manchester Council is refusing to be scrutinised, if you want these questions answering now, add your name today.
Below you will find a timeline of events and the questions I was going to ask the council.
Manchester Council is refusing to be scrutinised, if you want these questions answering now, add your name today.
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Timeline of events:
- Sunday evening: John Leech submits his questions on the Ladybarn Centre to Manchester Council.
- Monday morning: John Leech receives a reply from Richard Leese - leader of Manchester Council - saying he cannot ask any questions at the meeting and demands Leech immediately "withdraw" his questions - saying he has been advised by the City Solicitor that purdah rules apply to councils.
- Monday evening: John Leech replies saying this advice is incorrect and he will continue to ask the questions.
- Tuesday morning: There is no reply to Leech’s previous email but the questions have made it onto the council agenda.
- Wednesday: Leech contacts the City Solicitor who confirms that he is allowed to submit questions to council.
- Wednesday morning: Manchester Council Twitter posts a tweet linking to their website to watch the live streaming of the council meeting.
- Wednesday: The live streaming of the meeting never starts.
- Wednesday: Minutes before Leech is due to ask his questions, Leese cancels all questions from the opposition with no explanation - councillors from within the chamber applaud and cheer.
- Wednesday: After the meeting, the council's website is updated to advise that purdah rules apply to councils and therefore will not be putting the video of the council meeting on the website - despite their own Twitter tweeting out a link.
- Wednesday: The City Solicitor confirms she did not advise Richard Leese that the questions were out of order.
- Wednesday evening: The City Solicitor confirms in writing that Leech's questions were in order and permissible.
These were the questions I was going to ask:
1. To the Deputy Leader - What political oversight took place of the decision to withdraw all funding from Ladybarn Community Association?
The independent Insolvency practitioner has raised concerns that by removing funding and not supporting a recovery plan, the Council has put Ladybarn Community Association in a position which is almost impossible to turn round. There has been no political scrutiny of this decision, and Cllr Leese has tried to silence me today by wrongly claiming that the City Solicitor considered my questions to be unacceptable due to purdah. Why is this Council so frightened of being scrutinised over their decision to abandon Ladybarn Community Association?
2. To the Deputy Leader - What discussions have taken place involving Councillors and officers of the Council and potential development partners, including housing associations, regarding the site of Ladybarn Community Centre?
At least one Labour Councillor had previously talked about its potential redevelopment but you have now ruled out redevelopment, will you now guarantee that the services provided by Ladybarn Community Association at the Community centre will ALL be maintained and run in the existing building regardless of who is providing the services - yes on no?
3. To the deputy Leader - What assessment has been made of the decision to remove funding of Ladybarn Community on the level of debt of the Ladybarn Community Association?
By removing funding, the Council deliberately increases the debts of Ladybarn Community association and has used these theoretical additional debts to justify its decision to try and close down the Community Association. Given that the independent insolvency practitioner has already stated that ANY organisation taking over the running of services at the Community centre, why does the Council persist in trying to force its closure, rather than working with the Trustees and local community on a recovery plan?
4. To the Deputy Leader - What guarantees will she give to staff from Ladybarn Community Centre regarding their jobs, if the provision of services is transferred to 4CT?
Staff are being deceived with vague half promises that they might have a job if services are transferred, but no guarantees have been made. This Council is supposed to have a policy of no compulsory redundancies, yet it is the Council's action that is going to put some of the staff out of a job. Will the Deputy Leader make a promise to staff today that they will have a job, regardless of who is providing the services - yes or no?
Manchester Council is refusing to be scrutinised. If you want these questions answering now, sign your name today.