Challenging questions to directors

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Website of the future? This design is on a page of Ace Designs, Dover

Some of the interactions between Rye Partnership directors and members of the audience at its 2015 annual meeting are given below:

Key to speakers
KG Keith Glazier
AK Anthony Kimber
CS Christopher Strangeways
GSa Gina Sanderson

1 Tilling Green community centre

AK Amicus intends to have the freehold of the whole of the site . . . so presumably Rye Partnership will end up as the lessee for the community centre, or is there any other alternative arrangement that you are likely to consider, perhaps a community CIC?

GK I think the delivery of services out of there might be a CIC, might be any one of various Partnership arrangements, but I actually think that the agreement that we have entered into with Amicus makes us the lessee of the community centre, and then we can have a sub-lease, and then whoever is the most appropriate person can run/manage that building . . .

CS The County Council Estates Department in the past has always insisted on achieving the highest market price for assets when they have been disposed of, and that was one of the reasons why we had a problem with the Thomas Peacocke site, because we wanted to have community benefit and we were told “no” we couldn’t have community benefit because the estates department insists on it being maximum value. I am just wondering, as the leader of ESCC, are you [Glazier] triggered by the Estates Department? What they have said in the past is that they are legally obliged to achieve a maximum price. Are you under the same pressure that you were before when you sold the Thomas Peacocke site, to achieve the maximum value here, or are you able to rely on community benefit to have a much higher priority when you come to dispose of the site?

GK You are going back in history and those who have heard it all before will forgive me: the process of disposing of this was somewhat different – in as much as the decision taken by the county council, or the lead member on his own on the instructions of the legal team – to ensure that there was a community facility built into this solution. It was open to tender, all of that process took place, it ended up that there was just one bidder, Amicus Horizon and Rye Partnership.

CS Was it ever discussed that the freehold for the community centre should be up for sale as well, so that the community itself could have retained the land?

GK Absolutely, if the community had come forward with a bid that suggested that, then it would have been considered. I think the thing that has changed is the interpretation of best value, because it is not always about highest price. Our estates team still try to obtain for the ratepayers of East Sussex the best price, but equally, in setting this out, it was a unique opportunity that the people of Tilling Green told us through conversations or consultation with Amicus Horizon, if anything was to happen to this site we want to keep a community centre. The county council listened to that, built that into the sale disposal process and we are where we are now. We have Amicus Horizon and Rye partnership, Amicus building the housing – some for sale, some for rent, some for part sale part rent – and Rye Partnership will have the lease. Amicus Horizon will have the freehold on the new community building.

2 Directors’ input

CS Can I clarify what the Rye Partnership is doing in this arrangement at all because there is yourself, as director and chairman, representing the vendor; you have a director who is a director of Amicus Horizon. So two members of the board are already deeply involved in the process.

GK No, we are outside of it.

CS So you are not in any way influencing the outcome?

GK The decision has been taken that Amicus and Rye Partnership are the preferred deliverers of this. Up until that point both myself and my co-director on Amicus stayed right out of it, which is why Ian Ross and the other directors didn’t even have us in the room when they were putting the bid together. I knew nothing about it, I had no influence, check the records of accounting, I had no influence, I had no part in it . . .

CS Rye partnership seems to be a beneficiary in this, with your offices and so forth . . .

GK Hold on. Where have you got this offices from?

CS It is my understanding you are going to have offices on the first floor [of the new community centre]?

GK Listen, you are not listening to me. Please do because I don’t want to spend all evening here. I told you, whether the Partnership is in that building or not is to be decided. If it is to make it sustainable and we need to pay our rent to be in there, we will be in there, and if we don’t need to we have got other offices elsewhere. We don’t need to be there. So we are not a beneficiary. We will pay the same as any other, but at the end of the day we will facilitate this.

CS I would just like to get an assurance that you are not influencing, in any way, the outcome of this consultation, that Rye Partnership is not in any way affecting the outcome here?

GK Perhaps Jim [Hollands] can record this in Rye’s Own that the directors who have interests in their organisations, have always declared and always left the room and have had no influence on the outcome of this at all. On public record, absolutely, I, as leader of the county council, as chairman of Rye Partnership, it is absolutely clear that I have had no part in this at all.

CS I am glad to hear that and I think there was some confusion in some people’s minds.

GK I don’t know why because everyone who is involved in this knows that is the case.

3 Women and Children project of Rye Museum

Kimber asked how the Women and Children project in Rye turned over nearly £70,000 in two years . . .

GSa The museum wanted to see the woman’s tower refurbished. Heritage Lottery fund no longer do bids on their own. They wanted to see an education programme running alongside it and, basically, Rye Partnership ran the education programme and employed two members of staff, so a lot of it was the things going on down here, courses and events, package of getting community involved with the museum.

AK I assume a large proportion of that went on the employment?

GSa Yes, the employment and the events.

4 Rye Partnership losses

CS I can’t identify where the loss has been made?

KG These are not profit and loss accounts, these are the audited accounts that go . . . [They are not audited accounts according to the papers handed out]

CS There is a profit and loss account at the front here . . .

KG Let me tell you where the loss is. The loss is the fact that our tenant in the fisheries went bankrupt and left us tons of rotting fish – we had to employ the Environment Agency’s specialist firm to remove that, and all of that added up to, I am guessing here, but around £50,000.

CS The loss was £96,000.

KG I will ask for you to be given a breakdown of whatever the losses are.

CS It’s a big loss to make though. Because it is not here in the accounts, I am wondering where the loss is?

KG It is not a major loss that gives us any concern. I will get that to you.