Hotel deal nothing but a ‘Fawlty Towers farce’
THAT’S THE REACTION OF OPPONENTS TO COUNCIL PLANS TO BUY COOMBE ABBEY BUSINESS
COVENTRY City Council will go ahead with controversial plans to buy Coombe Abbey Hotel in a deal branded by the opposition as a “Fawlty Towers farce”.
The sale, thought to be in the region of £11million, was discussed during the private part of a full council meeting today under an agenda item called Project CAP.
Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Labour’s cabinet member for business, confirmed that the council had voted to go ahead with the purchase of the hotel business.
Speaking to the Telegraph this evening, he said: “Coventry Council will now be the sole shareholder of the Coombe Abbey Hotel which means we will generate 10% return on the investment.
“This is a serious amount of money and it will be a really good way of investing in services going forward. We believe it is good value for money for the tax payer.
“Local government is still at risk of losing funding so this is a way that we can make our own revenue going forward - we are investing in a profit making business.”
Earlier this week Cllr O’Boyle said the exact value of the deal could not be revealed ahead of completion due to legal restrictions on the council.
However, protesters opposing council cuts outside the Council House today claimed the amount was £11million.
Today Cllr O’Boyle told the Telegraph he could neither confirm or deny that figure.
“Once the deal is secured the cost will be made public,” he added.
The local authority is already the freehold owner of the hotel, which means they own the bricks and mortar, but the council now own the lease too – essentially the hotel business. The hotel is currently owned by No Ordinary Hotels Ltd and Coombe Abbey Park Ltd, both headed by businessman Gordon Bear. What did the opposition say? The Conservatives have opposed the deal and hit out at the council for their handling of the issue. Prior to the decision, the leader of Coventry Conservatives, Cllr Gary Ridley, issued the following statement: “Traditionally when the Labour administration discusses an item of private business there is a public report to accompany it with the confidential detail removed.
“It’s a great shame that on this occasion this process wasn’t respected and adhered to.
“It places the public at a disadvantage because they’re not given any insight into the decision and even now limits what I can say publicly.
“With those restrictions in mind I will respect the Local Government Act and restrict my comments to the information which was confirmed in public by Cllr Jim O’ Boyle.
“In an interview with the media the cabinet member acknowledges there is a level of risk to this deal.
“It raises questions about the state of the business, remedial work and whether a local authority should be involved in running a hotel at all.
“As councillors we have a sacred duty to protect the city, our city, from risk and liability.
“That’s why a decision of this magnitude needs to be given careful consideration.
“Just like Fawlty Towers this process has been a farce but I don’t see anyone laughing. In fact, it’s taken many Conservative members by surprise, just as it has raised concern amongst the public.
“Our group was only briefed after the news was made public.
“This means that Conservative Group members will have had less than 24 hours to read a report before being asked to support it.
“Under these circumstances it is impossible for us to be able to provide any input or to even quantify and understand the level of risk involved.
“As such, we’d be failing in our duty to the people of Coventry were we to simply rubber stamp it.
“I can therefore confirm that we do not support this proposal in its current form.
“Secret deals made behind closed doors will erode public confidence in our democratic institutions and I’d urge the Labour Group to bring a public report as soon as possible.”
It raises questions about the state of the business, and whether a local authority should be involved in running a hotel at all. Cllr Gary Ridley