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Multi-million pound Barnham Broom Golf Club talks again kept under wraps by councillors

PUBLISHED: 13:09 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:09 09 November 2018

The Barnham Broom Hotel, Golf and Spa. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Barnham Broom Hotel, Golf and Spa. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A Norfolk council has again kept a decision about the future of a multi-million pound asset shrouded in secrecy, despite outcry over “democratic failure”.

Breckland Council bought Barnham Broom Golf and Country Club, near Dereham, for £8m in 2006, and said the commercial venture, leased to Barnham Broom Golf and Country Club Ltd, would bring in £480,000 in rent a year.

But at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday, November 8, councillors voted to exclude the press and public from the discussion on Breckland’s future involvement in the club, where they approved a previous decision known only as ‘Option 1’.

The council’s cabinet met on Tuesday, October 16 where a decision about their future relationship with the club was made in secret, due to confidential financial and business affairs.

At the meeting, councillors approved a recommendation from Breckland property manager Ralph Burton: ‘Option 1’.

Leader of Breckland Council William Nunn. Picture: Ian BurtLeader of Breckland Council William Nunn. Picture: Ian Burt

Councils may keep the public in the dark if the reason for secrecy outweighs the public interest. But councillor Timothy Burt, of Breckland Green Party, accused the council of a “democratic failure” for keeping the decision under wraps.

And the following week it was confirmed the decision had been referred to the overview and scrutiny commission, where it could be discussed publicly.

The referral was ‘called in’ by deputy leader of the opposition Labour Group, councillor Harry Clarke, who said he “had thought very carefully” about the request.

READ MORE: ‘Democratic failure’: Council in secret talks over future of Barnham Broom Golf Club

The Terrace at the Barnham Broom Hotel, Golf and Spa. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Terrace at the Barnham Broom Hotel, Golf and Spa. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

And at the scrutiny committee meeting, Mark Stinson, executive manager for governance, said the decision should be discussed behind closed doors as “commercially sensitive business and financial information relating both to the council and their client” was likely to be disclosed.

He said: “It’s industry standard practice [to hold discussions in private] and your officers consider this very much the case here.”

The commission were given the choice between taking no further action, and accepting ‘Option 1’, referring it back to cabinet for reconsideration, or passing it onto full council.

Councillors then passed a motion to exclude the public from the rest of the meeting, which was opposed only by councillor Pablo Dimoglou.

A complaint has been made to Breckland Council chief executive Anna Graves about a lack of transparency over its investment in Barnham Broom. Picture: Matthew Usher.A complaint has been made to Breckland Council chief executive Anna Graves about a lack of transparency over its investment in Barnham Broom. Picture: Matthew Usher.

And after discussions lasting more than 45 minutes, they chose to take no further action on the decision to approve ‘Option 1’.

Mr Clarke said he had no further comments to make.

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