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Posted by: John Brace | April 16, 2013

Audit and Risk Management Committee (Wirral Council) 15th April 2013


Present:
Cllr John Hale
Cllr Jim Crabtree (Chair)
Cllr Steve Foulkes
Cllr John Salter
Cllr Darren Dodd
Cllr Alan Brighouse
Cllr Geoffrey Watt
Cllr Joe Walsh
Cllr James Keeley

No declarations of interest were made.

David Armstrong, Assistant Chief Executive said he would speak to the first part of this agenda item on the Contract Procedure Rules. He said that when he had started at Wirral Council Chris Batman had given him three bits of advice. The first advice was not to go up the carpet on the main stairs, the second was not to reply to letters from councillors using their Christian names and the third was not to take things to committee that are only half-done. He said for the first time, he’d brought something which was a “work in progress”.

He said that Graham Burgess had asked Peter Timmins and himself to look at the financial regulations and Contract Procedure Rules. Mr. Armstrong said the set they had was “not user-friendly” or “easy to follow”. They had looked at the rules used by other authorities and had had a discussion as to whether they should modify the existing rules or look towards better examples from other local authorities. The latter option had been chosen.

Cheshire West and Chester’s had been chosen as they were “more straightforward and simple to follow”, that their rules had been “tried and tested for some time” and that it would make joint procurement (with Cheshire West and Chester) easier too. For what happened in the rest of this meeting this link takes you to the correct part in the video.

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Responses

  1. Cheshire West & Chester Council issued a compromise contract in October 2009 which barred an ex-employee from exercising their statutory querying rights under Freedom of Information and Data Protection – this was totally ultra vires and lasted for 20 long months. It was similar to removing the person’s vote. It was never democratically scrutinised by ANY committee of councillors and it took the country’s senior privacy lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC to make them capitulate and remove this undemocratic “sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

    Is this the kind of woeful contract procedure that Wirral Council admire, regard as “tried and tested” and see as worth adopting for their own use?

    I continue to doubt the sanity of those involved and to fear for people’s safety…

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    • Sorry for taking a while to reply to your comment, the contract procedure rules at Wirral Council are to do with buying goods and/or services from outside third parties. Unless they were contracting for legal advice for a compromise contract, the contract procedure rules wouldn’t apply to the situation you describe.

      However there is the issue that if they’re contracting for “independent legal advice” to advise an employee to sign a compromise contract, that there would be the temptation of a firm to have a bias in their advice towards their paymaster so that they get future work. Quite how you’d eliminate this I’m not sure. A lot of private sectir businesses find public sector procurement difficult to understand, others have grown rich on the back of it.

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