Saturday, 11 April 2009

Tory shame over "unlawful" deal could cost us millions

I have spoken out in the Council Chamber, and written on this blog about the dangers of "Secretive" Cabinet style Local government. Whereby officers and members meet in private without proper minutes being taken and make decisions behind closed doors which are never voted on by elected members. Now it seems that the Tory Party at County Hall have confirmed my worst fears as a report from the Councils monitoring officer informs what will be a stunned council that a potential £56m contract (£8m a year over 7 years) was in the opinion of a QC unlawfully agreed behind closed doors by officers and just one councillor (Cllr Bill Parker) There are strict EU rules governing the letting of contracts over and above £153,000 and it is clear from even a cursory glance at the report that something is badly wrong (and deeply damaging to the Conservative Party) happening at County Hall.

The Council will be discussing this latest scandal at its full Council meeting on the 21st of April and the full report can be found here. (item 6g)

The report outlines the sorry history of the letting of a major buildings and maintenance contract to a company called Carillion Services Limited. It is by no means complete, it seems that no one yet has been interviewed and key documents are not available for viewing. It talks about minutes of crucial meetings not being available from key meetings, nor can they even find the original signed version of the document! This is "mother" of all scandals and should blow the Tory's clear out their blue water comfort zone

But don't just take my word for it have a look below at the QC's opinion given when asked for his advice by the monitoring officer, together with just a few lines from the monitoring officers report:

"In reviewing the financial effectiveness of the Contract, it was discovered that the Council had possibly entered into a contract with the Contractor on 22nd January 2007 without Cabinet approval and with no properly authorised delegation to the relevant officers to enter such a contract (contract was signed by the Contractor on 22nd January). Advice was sought, therefore, from Richard Clayton QC and Marion Smith (Counsel) as to whether the contract was unawful and Richard Clayton QC confirmed that, in his opinion, it was ultra vires, i.e. unlawful."

"The Council has been unable to identify any record which would identify a proper line of delegated authority in relation to the award of the contract or any delegation which would justify any Cabinet Member or named officer in taking a decision to award the contract."

"Counsel have advised that, whilst the issue is ultimately one for the courts and will depend on the facts as found by the courts, their view is that the Council did not have the capacity in their opinion to enter into the contract and that the agreement is therefore ultra vires, i.e. unlawful."

"Counsel advised that in their opinion there has been a failure to comply with the procurement regime set out in the Public Contracts Regulations 2006."

"It is also apparent that no records are kept of relevant delegations to officers and members and there is a lack of clarity about whether decision makers have the authority of the Council when making such decisions."

Proof positive (if any more was needed) that our County Council which only bothers to meet quarterly, is not run through the democratic process as laid down by law but by officers who collude with individual Councillors from the ruling party to spend your money and enter into multi million pound agreements without most of the Council being involved or able to speak or vote for or against them.

Of course the full report and outcome of the investigation won't be available until after the County Council elections and already you can see the ease at which "Former employees" and "individuals" will be being prepared to be hung out to dry.

But it is not simply the fault of individuals, it is the fault of the whole system and whilst resignations may be called for, and should be answered, the real problem "The County Council" itself will still remain.

The sooner we are rid of this unaccountable shire circus the better. I am considering standing in June's County Council Election. If I do I will make no secret of my view that the best thing we can do with the County Council is to abolish it, and restore unitary local government in Northampton.

Anyone with the patience to read through the report linked to above will understand fully why.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Daniel Hannan, the true voice of Conservatism

At a time when David Cameron is falling over himself to be all things to all people and selling his re constructed Tory Party as "green" and "in love with the NHS" thank the lord for Tory MEP Daniel Hannan (South East) who has single handedly reminded us how barmy the Conservative Party really is when it is left to it's own devices.

Like most aristocratic families the Tory Party seem to send all their embarrassing offspring abroad and so it is that Dan Dan the Essex Man was whisked off to Strasbourg in order not to embarrass the Parents. But they forgot about the power of the internet and so it was that a 3 minute rant by Hannan hit "You Tube" and got a million hits after being featured stateside on Stations such as "FOX News" Fox news have him down as the next PM of Britain and his oration in Brussels did deserve some praise for bluster if not for it's content.

His attempts at blaming Brown for all the worlds ills would have had more clout if he had been correct in his comments about the PM overseeing an huge and unprecedented debt crisis forgetting that national debt in 1956, after five years of Tory government, was roughly twice what is now predicted to be. Harold Macmillan, then chancellor, quoted the Victorian historian Lord Macaulay: “At every stage in the growth of that debt the nation has set up the same cry of anguish and despair . . . Yet still the debt kept on growing; and still bankruptcy and ruin were as remote as ever.” But facts, weren't going to stand in Dan's way he was on a roll.

And so it was that his internet success (despite the mistakes including suggesting that the government had renationalised the car industry) went to his head a little too quickly and led to him coming back for more, and his second attempt at Stateside fame had him telling FOX News and the american public that the NHS was a "mistake" that "made people iller".

Asked why he had warned Americans in the past not to adopt the NHS model of healthcare, Hannan replied: "Because you're our friends and if you see a friend about to make a terrible mistake you try and warn him. We have lived through this mistake. We have lived through this mistake for 60 years now."

He added "It began with the best of intentions. It began because people thought it was wrong for those who were not well off ... to be treated differently ... But the reality is it hasn't worked. It's made people iller. We spend a lot of money and we get very bad results. You look at survival rates for cancer or for heart disease, we are well down on all the leagues."

Why bother with the truth when a lie travels so fast around the websphere?

To see his full rant click below.

David Cameron is however shy in coming forward and telling us how Mr Hannans view squares with his own when he says "the NHS is a number one priority for us. The Conservative party is fully supportive of a healthcare system that is free for all who need it."

For more Hannanisms I am grateful to my friend at the Mirror Kevin Maguire who informed us of Hannan's exploits in deepest darkest (and very hot) Peru where our Dan suffered from heatstroke one summer while visiting his family. Kevin's informant recalled that the anti- European insisted on always wearing a tie and full three-piece suit in the baking sun. When asked why, Hannan replied: "We have to show the natives that Englishmen aren't afraid of a bit of weather..."

Hurrah for Blighty old boy, you tell them!

Finally the New Statesman (although a shadow of it's former self I am afraid) at least identified how very odd and how very wrong Mr Hannan and his views can be when they tell us:

"Hannan is a fool. For proof, read a Spectator article he wrote in 2004 (unearthed by the Fabian Society’s Sunder Katwala) praising the “economic miracle” in Iceland. “Icelanders,” he wrote, “. . . have no more desire to submit to international than to national regulation. That attitude has made them the happiest, freest and wealthiest people on earth.”

At a time when the sensible classes need proof positive of how unchanged the Tory Party really are despite their best attempt to dress themselves in others clothes, we are truly grateful to Daniel Hannan for standing up proud and true for the real values of Conservatism in 2009.

Give the man more air time I say...................................



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