Lewisham’s inquiry into Surrey Canal Sports Foundation could be headed up by a QC, cost up to £500,000, and last at least six months, the News has learned.
Councillors will tomorrow (Wednesday) meet to discuss and vote on head of law Kath Nicholson’s recommendations for the scope, timescale and cost of the inquiry into the charity at the heart of Renewal’s New Bermondsey scheme.
The council pledged to set up the inquiry after performing a dramatic U-turn on plans to compulsory purchase Millwall FC land as part of the controversial development.
The U-turn followed a number of allegations, including one of SCSF falsely claiming to have secured £2million of Sport England funding.
Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock, Southwark Council leader Peter John, and Tanni Grey-Thompson have all resigned from the charity since the allegations came to light.
In a report to be presented to councillors at a Lewisham mayor and cabinet meeting tomorrow evening, the head of law has recommended that:
- the council should approach the chair of the Bar Council to appoint a QC to conduct the inquiry
- an “alternative intermediary with an equal level of probity and independence”, such as a retired High Court judge, should be appointed if there is not a suitable QC
- the council should agree expenditure of up to £500,000 on the inquiry and that it is likely to last at least six months
- the executive director for children and young people should be the council’s officer to set up and conduct the inquiry
- a cross-party New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal Inquiry Committee be set up comprising four majority group members and one minority party member to receive the reports on the inquiry
The proposed scope of the inquiry is to consider the pledge of £500,000 made by Lewisham Council to SCSF in June 2014.
It is proposed that the inquiry should begin at the point when planning permission was granted in 2011 and the decision to potentially use the council’s CPO powers in 2012.
“The allegations about SCFT [SCSF] are serious and the council needs to establish whether they are true and if so, consider the implications for any redevelopment at New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal,” the head of law states in her report.
“It is therefore imperative that an independent inquiry into the allegations in relation to SCFT should take place and that it should be conducted by someone with sufficient knowledge and expertise to conduct it robustly.
“Only in this way can the council inspire public confidence in the integrity of the process and its outcome.”
It is unlikely the inquiry would begin before the beginning of April at the earliest, according to the report.