At the meeting of Argyll and Bute Council on 27th June 2013, the sale of Castle Toward is minuted at Item 40 - from whose discussion members of the public were excluded and on which the minute is restricted – that:
‘The Council considered a report which provided information and legal advice in relation to the withdrawal of the prospective purchasers from the proposed sale of the Council’s property at Castle Toward.’
The author of the report presented for consideration was not named in the agenda, yet there can be no reason why that should be restricted information. For Argyll has submitted a Freedom of Information request for the identity of that author.
The decision recorded was that: ‘The Council noted the report and reaffirmed the existing delegation to progress the commercial marketing and disposal of the property.’
This, the fortieth item of the day, was the last item the council felt able to consider, with the meeting immediately adjourned for later discussion of a further 10 items.
Then, at the meeting of the council on 26th September 2013, at Item 21, the last on the agenda, the council considered a [restricted] report identified on the Agenda Reports Pack as being: ‘Joint Report by Executive Directors of Community and Customer Services’ – aka Cleland Sneddon and Douglas Hendry.
This is the first identifiable formal involvement of Mr Sneddon in this matter. It had previously been the exclusive responsibility of Mr Hendry. It is also notable that Mr Sneddon, as Executive Director of Community Services, is named on the agenda ahead of Mr Hendry.
The brief minute of the discussion, from which the public were excluded, reads: ‘The Council considered a report on the Sale of Castle Toward.’ – the report being that presented by the two Executive Directors named.
The decision of council was minuted as: ‘Agreed that the Executive Director – Community Services implement his delegation on 1 December 2013 subject to there being no known impediment at that time.’
The reference to ‘his delegation’ implies that the delegation arrangements had already been made with Mr Sneddon prior to this council meeting, earlier in September – or before then.
Since the June meeting minuted the council’s confirmation of ‘the existing delegation’ – was that already Mr Sneddon’s delegation: was it an existing delegation that, before the September meeting, was transferred to Mr Sneddon’s responsibility; or was it replaced by a new delegation composed by Mr Sneddon before the September meeting?
It is public knowledge, through agenda and minutes, that at the November council meeting, the Castle Toward matter was led by Mr Sneddon, this time focused on the interest by South Cowal Community Development Company in a community buy out of the property.
A bit of a conundrum in these strange arrangements is that Mr Hendry remains responsible for the council’s Property Services. Is Mr Sneddon – whose specific responsibilities and staff are based in his different department – intended to carry out his new responsibilities for the sale of Castle Toward through Mr Hendry’s staff in Property Services?
The big questions are:
- Who took the decision to take responsibility for the ongoing disposal of Castle Toward away from Mr Hendry and give it Mr Sneddon?
- Why did they take this decision?
- When was it taken?
For Argyll has lodged a Freedom of Information request for this information.
Note to the minute on this matter from the November council meeting: we understand that, in respect of their commuity buy out interest, South Cowal Community Development Company last week served Argyll and Bute Council with the necessary prohibition notice suspending any action to dispose of the property. This prohibition remains in force for 63 days. This period enables the community company to prepare a business plan to support their proposal.