Councillor receives apology following accusations he misrepresented facts about Castle Quay

30/03/2023

Ian Middleton says he will continue to ask questions over the Council’s ownership of the shopping centre

An apology has been issued by Cherwell District Council’s Chief Executive to a Councillor after the Council issued a statement accusing him of presenting a narrative about the Castle Quay Shopping Centre which “ignores or misrepresents factual information”.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Ian Middleton – the Green party Councillor who represents Kidlington East – received the personal apology from Yvonne Rees, after he submitted a complaint about the statement.

As we previously reported Councillor Middleton came under fire for saying the financial fallout from the district buying the shopping centre and regenerating the waterfront had been “simply staggering”. He also said the council had rewritten its reasons for the deal as predicted revenue vanished from balance sheets.

He noted a £4.3 million shortfall in anticipated revenue over this and the next financial year, including a £1 million drawdown from council savings to plug the gap publicised in July 2022. He also estimated that the centre and Castle Quay 2 combined is now worth £87 million less than its acquisition and development cost.

The council did not dispute those figures but submitted an astonishing rebuke claiming that despite providing Councillor Middleton with “regular, detailed and transparent communications” he “continues to present a narrative which ignores or misrepresents factual information that has been shared with him”.

Following publication of the statement Councillor Middleton challenged the council to provide evidence of any misrepresentation or statements he had made which were untrue or misleading.  He complained that accusations that he had misrepresented the facts were both professionally and politically damaging to him.

In her apology Yvonne Rees said: “I have been made aware of the complaint made by you in relation to the press statement by the Council where it is stated that your narrative on the Castle Quay ignores or misrepresents that factual information that has been shared with you. 

“On behalf of the Council as Head of Paid Service, I take responsibility for the communication emanating from the Council. It is unfortunate that the statement uses this wording, and I apologise whole heartedly for this. The statement was in no way a deliberate attempt to undermine your professional and political standing.

“I trust this apology is acceptable to you. I will ask for the statement to be withdrawn.”

Councillor Middleton has accepted the apology but says he will keep questioning the rationale and ramifications of the Council taking ownership of the shopping centre.

He said: “I was pleased to accept Yvonne’s apology and have confirmed that, along with a published retraction, I will regard this as the end of the matter.

“My concern has only ever been to ensure that all Cherwell residents are kept fully informed about the implications of the council’s involvement in this scheme and the impacts it could have on provision or services, the level of council tax and the future financial stability of the council.

“Everything I have said both internally and publicly about Castle Quay has been backed up by facts. Any commentary I have made has been rooted in my own experience within the retail industry which has informed my concerns about the potential impact on the council of their involvement in this development. 

“As a councillor and someone who has been involved in the retail industry for over 30 years, I’m keen to ensure the council takes a realistic and pragmatic approach to the development going forward and looks for solutions to minimise any future risk whilst facilitating much needed  regeneration across the town and the wider district.”


Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam

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