Saturday, 21 November 2009

Carry on Carrillion

Thursday's County Council meeting went very much to type with the Tory Party voting en'masse to accept the "draw a line in the sand" option given to them by the Councils Chief Executive leaving most of the public still perplexed as to exactly what had occured and who was responsible, and what they were responsible for in the first place.

Well in order to assist, I will try to explain below. The mammoth report which was heavy on rhetoric and light on facts told us that after a lengthy investigation and many interviews nobody could determine who said what and who did what, and as most of the possibly guilty party's had left the council that we should all just now forget it, move on and make sure it never happens again,

Readers of my last post will know that in 2007, officials from Northamptonshire County Council agreed an £8 million a year deal with West Midlands-based construction firm Carillion to take over the management of the council's buildings.

But earlier this year, the council unexpectedly pulled out of the contract. It later emerged the way the council signed-off the deal may have been illegal and many key documents could not be found at County Hall.

Well it turns out that the QC engaged by the council did think the letting of the contract was unlawful, and who had the ultimate responsibility for letting the contract? Step forth Cllr Robin Brown and Cllr Bill Parker, both reasonably sensible people on the surface it seems, but between them (at different times as portfolio holders) they managed to take a £8 a year contract through all its processes and then award the contract initially for 4 years with a possible 4 year extention without ever bringing the issue back to the Councils Cabinet Meeting (held in public) so that opposition councillors and the general public could judge whether or not it was or was not a good deal.

Of course in the end it proved not to be a good deal and only then, when investigations started as to how the contract was let in the first place, did we discover the uncomfortable truths which have caused such a fuss ever since.

Now if we want to simplify all this, and cut through all the paperwork (most of which is still missing or not to be found) then all we need to ask ourselves is were the rules broken by the two councillors when they proccessed and/or agreed the contract?

And the answer in the report is a clear YES. Cllr Brown initially informed Cabinet of the contract being advertised for tender and promised to bring the matter back in front of cabinet as the matter progressed. He didn't. Cllr Parker who then took over from him as portfolio holder for finance then signed off the contract with a succesful tenderer without any proper scrutiny or agreement by the Cabinet or Council as is agreed within its constitution. Again Guilty as charged.

So why have neither apologised properly for the part they have played in such a debacle, or why have neither felt the need to fall on their sword? Well that is I suppose a personal matter for each of them to ponder and question. But the lack of political courage shown by the Councils Leader Jim Harker in dealing with the whole sorry issue sooner has in my mind only made the situation a whole lot worse.

Where is Cllr Harkers political nounce? surely if he was in possession of all of the facts, then you would have thought he would have pulled one or both councillors to one side after Junes election and said, look boys, you screwed up here, and it looks bad for the council, therefore I am keeping you off the cabinet for a period of 18months in order to show the public that we have dealt with the situation internally. But he didn't do that, instead he put both of the Cllrs straight back into his Cabinet and in doing so rewarded them for their inaction and/or wrongdoing of the past.

The call for Cllr Parkers resignation in April and again on Thursday was inevitable, the outcome of the vote on party lines again predictable, but will this end the matter once and for all?

Of course not, the Carrillion Affair will carry on and on and on, my best guess is that the next stage will be one or two members of the public making a complaint to the Standards Board about either of the Councillors involved, a tricky one indeed as the facts are there for the Standards Board to clearly see. Did the Councillors break the councils constitution? YES should the contract have been let without proper authority and approval by cabinet? NO.

My personal belief is that all involved including Jim Harker may live to regret not dealing with the matter far more quickly and decisively in the first place. Cllrs Brown and Parker who I both believe are decent people caught out by not reading the constitution correctly and listening too officers too much without challenging them, will also have to suffer for much longer as a consquence.

One final sour note from Thursday meeting, the Council leader made some very strange remarks regarding scurrilous blogs and breaches of privilege. I hope he was not referring to this blog? (perhaps it the light hearted separated at birth pictures he doesn't like) But I would never say anything on this blog which I am not prepared to also say in public or at Council, and the open comments box allows all to have their say and agree or disagree with me. Furthermore if any individual is offended personally by my comments and feels I have overstepped the mark then they only have to contact me and I would be more than happy to listen to their view and change the copy if in agreement.

But I guess its the truth which hurts far more than any non truth ever could.

1 comment:

  1. I told you that you were trouble Councillor Clarke! lol...
    I dunno, you and them scurrilous blogs again!!
    Still, never mind; I always got on with trouble better!!!
    I'm sure Jean will have better luck keeping you in check my friend...




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