Bob Blackman , MP for Harrow East, spoke in the House of Commons, calling for local authorities to manage public assets in a professional and transparent manner - claiming that Harrow Council "failed in its duty of care" over the sale of Hive Stadium, in Canons Park.
Harrow Council's deputy leader, Keith Ferry, says the MP is "dead wrong" and defended its decision in a bid to make sure the site was not left in the derelict state that Wealdstone FC ’s partners left the Hive in, more than a decade ago.
Construction of the 5,176 capacity stadium, at the Prince Edward Playing Fields, began in 2003 as a new home for Wealdstone FC, but their investment partners went into liquidation.
Harrow East's MP claims the land on which the Hive stadium is built was bought from the London Borough of Camden using taxpayer funds and has now been "sold on the cheap to Barnet FC in a rushed manner and without any consultation".
The sale of the site to Football First Ltd was completed on March 17 this year.
Mr Blackman said: “Local authorities have a responsibility to tax payers to care for public assets in a diligent manner.
"In this instance, London Borough of Harrow has, in my opinion, failed.
"Residents were not advised of the sale and the use of multiple private companies should alert persons as to transparency of local government.
"I suspect this has happened elsewhere in the UK; where a local authority sells off publicly owned land cheap, to cover their own financial mismanagement.
“Residents in the immediate proximity to the site are unhappy and Harrow residents should be angered at how the council has sold off land they – council tax payers – stumped up the cash to purchase initially, at what I consider well below market rate for a site of this size in Greater London.
"I urge fellow MPs and councillors to review their own constituencies and wards to ensure councils are not acting in such a manner on a wider scale.”
Bob Blackman raised the issue in the House of Commons in an adjournment debate on September 7, and claims the site is worth "substantially more" than its sale price of "a mere £2 million".
Councillor Ferry, deputy leader of the Council, and business, planning & regeneration portfolio holder, says the investment from Barnet FC provided the stadium, football centre as well as the sports complex, catering and conference facilities – "and all the jobs and opportunities for young people that come with it".
'Vast' cuts handed down to local authority funding
He said: “Mr Blackman is quick to defend the community use of the site and of the playing fields – well, neither would exist without Barnet’s lease of the site and our partnership with the club.
“Mr Blackman is also wrong to say that the public were not consulted.
"It is a matter of public record that thousands of households were invited to a pair of full-day public consultations about Barnet FC’s use of the site.
"Local residents’ associations and councillors were also canvassed at separate meetings, and the decision went to a public session of the council’s cabinet.
“Barnet FC’s long 125-year leasehold of the site began when the Conservatives were in control of Harrow Council, so I do wonder why it has taken Mr Blackman so long to find a deep concern for this issue, why he did not mention this fact in his speech and why he did not share his concerns with his colleagues at that time.
“If Mr Blackman is so concerned about the lease and sale of public land, I suggest he chooses to speak in the House about the vast cuts being handed down to local authority funding.
"That is the reason why every single council, all over the country, is today selling assets and land, laying off staff and reducing services.”
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