Council BAN public and press from scrutiny meeting over decision to privatise Doncaster and Mexborough markets

Doncaster Council will hold a secret meeting banning the public and press from a scrutiny hearing over plans to hand the running of the borough’s markets to a private operator.

Wednesday, 13th February 2019, 17:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th February 2019, 17:27 pm
A scrutiny meeting about Doncaster markets will not allow members of the public to attend

Cabinet members signed off a decision to hand over the running of Doncaster and Mexborough markets to Essex-based firm Markets Asset Management in a 25-year contract. 

Council bosses claim the 25-year contract will save the council £219,000 per year and will pay a guaranteed income for the local authority of £122,000 from both markets.

MAM has told the council it is committed to investing £2.21 million in the first five years and £3.86 million over the next 20 years in Doncaster Market.

The private operator has allocated £90,000 in the first five years for Mexborough with £2,000 per yer for 20 years after that. 

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But the decision was called-in for scrutiny led by the Mexborough First group who said the deal still had ‘unanswered questions.  

Councillors from all three political parties in the chamber, including members from the ruling Labour group, have expressed displeasure at the decision to ban the public and press.

Mexborough First Coun Sean Gibbons criticised a move by officers to hold the meeting in secret. 

He said: “There’s a lot of serious stuff and it’s going to affect Doncaster for a long time so we think it should be an open and transparent process. 

“I know some of it is confidential but we really want clarity on things like penalty clauses within the contract and a lot more due diligence throughout the whole process. 

“I think banning the public and press if unfair – the whole process has been dealt with unfairly in terms of the people that it affects like the traders, residents and the taxpayers across the borough. 

“I would expect more transparency – there is a way round this to have the meeting with public and press present for most of the meeting and if there’s anything delicate in there to be discussed in confidence then ask them to leave for that part.”

A note on the online agenda from Governance Services reads: “Information is exempt to the extent that, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.”