FIGURES revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show how councillors dramatically overturned the verdict of their own officers when deciding who should run the new £2m Portchester Community Centre.
Portchester Community School was given the right to run the centre after a panel of councillors scored it one point more than the bid by Portchester Community Association (PCA) – 64 to 63.
But a Freedom of Information request by The News has shown that council officers were overwhelmingly in favour of the community association’s bid.
Officers scored the school just 34 out of 100, but gave the association – which runs the current centre at Westlands Grove – a total of 67 points.
The council officers’ provisional ratings for the plans were kept secret – until today.
Sarah Moss, manager for the PCA, said: ‘I’m shocked. I didn’t think it would be that much of a gap.
‘I thought the officers were there to advise the councillors, but they obviously know better than their officers.’
Lib Dem Cllr Roger Price was the only councillor on the panel to vote against recommending the school for the lease.
The five other panel members were Tory councillors Connie Hockley, Nick Walker, Trevor Cartwright, Leslie Keeble and County Cllr Ray Ellis..
Cllr Price said: ‘The officers are professional, they are qualified in these areas and better at evaluating them than I believe the members are. I would expect there would be a one or two-point variation on both sides, but a 30-point swing is massive.
‘I still believe there was a hidden agenda in the way it was approached. The business plan was about what you put down on paper, not about who had the better orator.’
Panel members came to their scores after watching a presentation from the organisations and questioning them about their business plans.
They submitted their scores for each section and a mean score was given. Fareham’s executive committee then gave its backing for the school to take over the lease.
Panel chairwoman, Tory Cllr Connie Hockley said: ‘We have been very open and upfront in this process.
‘The analogy I would make is that it was like holding job interviews – the candidate that wasn’t as strong on paper really impressed us with their presentation and in their answers to our questions.’