WOKING Borough Council has accepted an independent report into its failings in dealing with the unsuccessful football stadium and housing development project.

A special council meeting last week unanimously agreed all 14 recommendations by Gifty Edila, a barrister with long experience in local government.

Dr Edila was appointed in November last year to conduct a review of the council’s dealings after an overview and scrutiny committee task force report contained a list of failings.

Her recommendations reflect those of the task force, later approved by the council, to improve the way the council deals with big projects.

Ayesha Azad, the council leader, said she wanted to say sorry on behalf of WBC “that our dealings in this matter and the council’s zeal was allowed to dim its responsibility to serve openly and transparently.”

Cllr Azad said Dr Edila’s report made for sobering reading in many places and she hoped that implementing the recommendations could “begin to heal the scars that exist in the community”.

The recommendations were turned into resolutions by council chief executive Ray Morgan, but the council unanimously agreed to an amendment by Ann-Marie Barker, the Liberal Democrat leader, to accept Dr Edila’s recommendations in full.

Most councillors who spoke said the report was highly critical of the council’s processes.

However, David Bittleston, who stood down as council leader last year, said: “The over-riding theme of this report isn’t condemnation but a whole series of congratulations of the council and officers.”

He said that while there are process issues that need to be dealt with and things put right “it isn’t true to say that the report is appalling”.

Some opposition councillors said the resolutions watered down some of the recommendations but Mr Morgan said they had taken into account the measures the council had already taken.

“The council’s zeal wasallowed to dim itsresponsibility to serveopenly and transparently”Cllr Ayesha Azad

“The inference that the recommendations are not accepted is a total misrepresentation,” he added.

Dr Edila wrote in her report that she had asked for several documents but some did not exist because the multimillion-pound plan for a 9,000-seat stadium and more than 1,000 adjacent flats was not considered to be a council-led project but a land transfer transaction.

The missing documents were a business plan, project plan, risk template, legal advice on the project, minutes of project group meetings and community engagement strategy.

She wrote that after Wayne Gold, the director of the developer GolDev, became involved “the aspirations grew exponentially . . . the proposals also changed from private financing to a substantial council loan. This should have been treated as a major project and the council’s project management tools adopted.”

Dr Edila wrote that she found the failure to keep minutes of meetings “surprising as this was a major project, with detailed discussions between at least three partners, and numerous documents drafted, including decision-making reports to the executive and full council”.

The report also criticised the lack of engagement with residents about the project and the presentation of reports in the confidential Part II section of council meetings.

For more on this story, see the 14 January edition of the News & Mail