25 March 2018
The Green councillor for Brockley, John Coughlin, replied last month to the report by Lord Dyson's inquiry into whether the council acted properly in respect of the Compulsory Purchase Order for land at Millwall stadium. Here is a transcript of John's speech:
Can I first start by reiterating my thanks to Lord Dyson for his exhaustive and detailed inquiry. Lord Dyson was clearly a fit and proper person to carry out the inquiry and it would by contrary and irresponsible of me not to accept the findings of the inquiry, not least because, after conducting the inquiry, he clearly has a better grasp of the issues than anyone else. I am happy that the inquiry has exonerated Lewisham Council from all allegations of impropriety or malfeasance. On behalf of Lewisham Green Party I accept Lord Dyson’s conclusions and the inquiry recommendations without proviso, but with a few supplementary notes (I would like to emphasise that a ‘note’ is not a ‘proviso’).
Firstly a note of caution.
Lewisham Council must avoid any appearance or semblance of self-congratulation in respect of the inquiry findings. Lord Dyson has found no impropriety on the part of the Council, its officers and procedures, but many thousand pounds (250,000) of Lewisham’s money and many man/woman hours have been spent trying to establish the truth so it behoves us all not to congratulate ourselves on a job well done but rather to absorb the findings and do better in the future.
A note of disquiet.
Lord Dyson admirably fulfilled his brief and his remit for the inquiry and in conclusion exonerated Lewisham Council from any impropriety. What has become obvious however is that there is one thing that was not part of the remit and that was common sense. Justice doesn’t just have to be done, it has to be seen to be done; a cliché admittedly, but an apposite cliché in this regard. Lewisham Council may have been legally exonerated but in the court of Common Sense, Lewisham Council has come up short. Was there no alternative to a CPO; a CPO is the bluntest and most intrusive tool we can use in the resolution of planning and purchasing problems. It should only be used in the most extreme of circumstances. The clue is in the name ‘compulsory purchase’; by issuing a CROP, we are taking the purchase out of the hands of ordinary people, basically saying we know best and you have no say in the matter.
And who thought it would be a good idea to sell the Millwall land and issue a CPO favouring Renewal, a company whose founders are a former senior officer (Mr Mushtaq Malik) and a former leader of the council of the Council (Mr David Sullivan). Did no one foresee that the immediate conclusion everyone would jump to was one of cronyism, jobs for the boys.
A note of hope.
It is the hope of Lewisham Green Party that this Council will reaffirm its absolute, unequivocal and unwavering support for Millwall Football Club. Millwall is one of the jewels in Lewisham’s crown and as such must be protected. We insist that Millwall remains Lewisham’s football club and the aspirations, wishes and concerns of MFC and its supporters are given full consideration at all times in any future dealings.
So, bearing these three points in mind
1 – no self-congratulation
2 – more common sense
3 – unwavering support for Millwall Football Club
On behalf of Lewisham Green Party and in the spirit of cross-party cooperation, I am happy to accept the findings and recommendations before us tonight, with the exhortation to do better in the future.