Youth workers slam council leader in row over bunker studio

LABOUR councillors walked out of a city council meeting in protest after accusing authority leader Matthew Dean of attacking organisers of a youth centre.

A row broke out between Cllr Dean and opposition members as Ross Sanderson and Kayleigh McCormick, from community interest company Life Rocks, presented their annual report on activity at the youth music studio in Harnham bunker.

At the meeting of the policy and resources committee on Monday Cllr Dean said the couple had not provided a written report or their accounts, as required under the terms of their lease.

He said there were still fears that the couple were running a private business on the back of the free youth service, after the council leased them the £100,000 bunker in 2016.

“Your management costs are significant. In other words [you are] running a business. That is why I have asked to see your accounts, then we can move on,” he added.

But Labour councillors reacted angrily.

Caroline Corbin said: “We have got two very decent people who have put their life, soul and house into [the youth music studio]. They do not deserve to be attacked.”

Cllr Michael Osment added: “I just think it is a terrible way we are treating these people.”

Mr Sanderson then protested about the way he had been treated before storming out of the room and declaring: “You did come across quite aggressive towards us. No one even wants to speak to us until we get into a public meeting. We have had enough of this. Every time I come to a council meeting we get this.”

He was followed by Labour councillors Caroline Corbin, Michael Osment and Ian Tomes.

After the walkout, Labour councillor Tom Corbin said from the public gallery: “I found Councillor Dean’s tone totally unacceptable. We have some people presenting a report to you who are quite visibly shaken.

“I found it utterly disgraceful.”

But Tory councillor Stephen Berry said: “It was a planned walkout in my view. It was clear the information we required was not available.

“I don’t believe Councillor Dean was particularly aggressive. He was asking for what was proper and expected.

“I think it is quite shameful.”

Cllr Kevin Daley said: “We asked for a written report and they didn’t [present one]. Their attitude has been extremely defensive. They are acting like kids, they have to report to us.”

Closing the issue, Cllr Dean said that if a written report was not provided along with accounts then the council could look at a rent review or a termination of the lease. “I am not content to let this matter drop,” he added.

“The whole situation is completely unacceptable.”