I've managed to get sight of some of the emails that were exchanged between Nottingham Studios' representatives and NCC when negotiations started to turn sour. You may recall that NS were somewhat unhappy about having to allow some of the community groups to stay on in the building for an indeterminate period. NS were quibbling over the rent that NCC were going to pay on the groups' behalf.
One of the emails I've seen was from somebody called David Smith at NCC and it includes an extraordinary admission which I don't think has seen the light of day before, here's an extract -
"You will be aware that we have to address a Local Government Ombudsman case regarding the disposal of this building. The payment of a rental sum for accommodation within the property to a new owner will be viewed upon as most extraordinary, when the new owner is purchasing the property for an amount which falls well below the figure which the Council would expect to obtain, were the property sold in the open market, partcularly [sic] when an offer for the property has already been received at a figure close to the £350,000 at which it has been valued."
So NCC had received an alternative much greater offer for the building yet were still pushing for a sale to NS for a much lower figure, completion of which would have cost them even more for renting half of it back. The use of the word 'already' suggests to me that this higher offer predates the one from NS, which the council proactively invited. You can see why Mr Smith was worried.
As far as I know this fact of the alternative offer was never put before the call-in sub-committee. It would surely have put the handling of the sale in a different light if it had. It's still very much open to question how much JoCo knew about all this. At call-in it was said that he wrote to the tenants at RUC on 29 December 2009 to tell them that the building was to be sold, some weeks before he made the official decision.
In addition, one of the emails from NS' rep says -
"1. Last autumn the Studios group was invited by NCC to consider the purchase of Radford Unity Complex at a price of 150k. NCC indicated a valuation of 300k for the property but there was acknowledegment of significant potential remedial building work."
All this makes the Standards Committee's Assessment Sub-Committee's claim that the only thing Collins knew about the matter was what was in the report appended to his decision seem all the more extraordinary and unlikely. I've pointed this out to them in my request for a review of their decision not to investigate Collins' conduct at call-in.
I've been told separately that one of the groups based at the complex, who are affiliated to a national organisation, had made an offer for the building and I'm attempting to confirm whether that is the case and whether it was the same one that David Smith was referring to.
But essentially, it is clear that, even before the serious incompetence set in with legal services' failure to give the tenants proper notice, NCC was already nearly £200k down. For some reason, it seems that somebody high up really wanted the building to go to Nottingham Studios. I have no idea why but maybe there's a clue as to the who in one of the emails from David Hill, Nottingham Studios' agent on 19 March 2009-
"My understanding is that the Leader is very keen to see this sale go through and the resulting project to support artists.
I assume that any response to our final position will be endorsed by him."