Confidential Manydown report to be made public

A CONFIDENTIAL report, examining Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s handling of the Manydown saga, will be made public and discussed at a special meeting next month.

Members of the council’s audit governance and accounts committee have agreed to publish accountancy firm Ernst & Young’s report examining the council’s purchase of the 834-hectare site west of Basingstoke, and the decisions that stopped it being built on.

The £100,000 report was commissioned by the 60-strong council earlier this year following a High Court ruling that said the borough’s decision not to include Manydown into its 15-year plan for future development was “unlawful” and “irrational”.

At the November 7 meeting, discussions will centre around the contents of the Ernst & Young report, and the independent legal advice sought from barrister William Webster.

The committee has opted to publish the two documents separately following fears that the original, which mixed the two parts together, had been “tainted”.

It emerged last month that the Ernst & Young report had added commentary from the barrister, who was chosen by borough council legal officers being investigated by the report.

Councillor Paul Harvey said: “Ernst & Young stated the barrister was solicited by the council, and we believe it was by an officer who has a conflict of interest in this matter.” Cllr Harvey said this strips the report of “reliability and integrity”.

He added that by publishing the documents separately, people would be free to draw their own conclusions on the council’s actions.

Committee vice-chairman Cllr Roger Gardiner added: “My whole interest in this is firstly to have the Manydown land into the housing mix, which has been achieved.

“The second objective is to ensure this sorry business is let out into public scrutiny as early as we can.”

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