An adviser has welcomed a watchdog committee’s decision to uphold a nearly £19,000 grant to his business.
The decision to approve a payment from the High Street Fund (HSF) to Looker Newspaper, which is owned by Cllr David Wimble, had been ‘called’ for consideration by Folkestone and Hythe District Council’s Oversight and Review Committee.
Three other council members asked for the £18,711 award to be considered further due to what they saw as ambiguity in the process, including the declaration of an interest in Cllr Wimble.
The Looker applied to the HSF for a grant to renovate and fit out new premises in Hythe High Street, which would house a growing confectionery and model railway business owned by Cllr Wimble’s business.
At the committee hearing on July 13, Cllr Rebecca Shoob opened the meeting by saying the decision to seek the review came down to seeking greater clarity.
She said: “I asked for this decision to be appealed because I think it is essential that residents can have complete confidence in the way decisions are made and the grants given.
“I think this particular decision has highlighted some flaws in the process that need to be addressed so that we can clearly demonstrate sound decision-making.”
“They took it for granted that I had given myself my own scholarship…”
The decision to award the money was made by the head of the council, Cllr David Monk, following a recommendation from a decision-making committee on which he also sits.
Documents recommending Cllr Wimble’s corporate grant approval appeared to suggest he had served on that panel as well – when in fact he withdrew from it due to the conflict of interest.
Cllr Shoob acknowledged that the work of the document may have been “standard text” but it did not provide “clarity or confidence”.
After hearing evidence from Cllr Monk and Ewan Green, the venue’s council manager, the committee voted to uphold the decision to award the money to The Looker newspaper.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Wimble – who represents New Romney – suggested the whole meeting could have been avoided if the three who requested the review had picked up the phone to speak to him.
“They took it for granted that I had given myself my own scholarship,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of very sarcastic comments from different opposition advisers.
“All they had to do was call me and ask me the question and not accuse me of doing things that were wrong.
“They only had to speak to the head of council or one of the officers and they would have explained the fact that due process was still required.”