Cabinet 3/11/2011 Part 1 Motions (Inflation, Projected Budget & PACSPE call-in)

The agenda and reports are here.

There were three motions at last week’s Cabinet meeting. They are all below.

Agenda Item: Provision for Inflation 2012-2013

Cabinet agrees all the recommendations, Cabinet asks Chief Officers to contain any price inflation costs within their existing budgets, as it notes that the long term Government assumption of inflation costs is set at 2% which is the amount contained within the projected budget, and that this will equate to a savings of £4.2m at a time when the Council is facing serious financial pressures.

Agenda Item: Budget Projections 2012-2015

Cabinet notes, with dismay, that the projected budget gap is likely to rise by 2014/15 to nearly £47m as a result of likely changes in the Local Government Resource Review and the implications of new legislation.

Cabinet recognises that these are projections based on what is known or anticipated at the moment on a pro rata basis between authorities, and could perhaps be even worse than anticipated when the direct impact on Wirral is calculated.

Cabinet expresses its grave concern that potential cuts at this level will be extremely damaging to Wirral’s services and to the people of Wirral at a time when the country’s economy is facing a slide into depression and poorer areas will once more be those which are hit the hardest.

Agenda Item: Parks and Countryside Services Procurement Exercise (PACSPE) – Outcome of Call-In

This Cabinet has considered carefully the resolution submitted to it by the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee;

It recognises the detailed work that went into the procurement process and the Gateway Reviews that were carried out as part of that process and does not question the thoroughness of those Reviews or the dedication and ability of those carrying out those Reviews;

However, the Cabinet believes that this does not alter the fact that detailed unit costs and specific activity levels, which would have allowed for full comparator costs to be available to check against the tender specifications, were not available and that this would have left the Council open to the same criticism on the PACSPE contract that was levied against the HESPE contract:

  • Cabinet recognises the seriousness of the qualification by the District Auditor of the Council’s Value for Money statement and of the warning to Members that they should be aware of the increased risk of letting a ten year contract if there is only very limited information on the costs and activity levels of the existing service because there is nothing to monitor against when assessing whether or not letting the contract has delivered better value for money.
  • Cabinet further considered the position that the cost of contractual inflation over a period of three years at current CPI levels would erode any savings delivered by outsourcing the contract and in subsequent years could increase costs to the Council.
  • Cabinet was further mindful that this decision was being taken when a highly critical Corporate Governance report had just been published which pointed in general to weaknesses in the Council’s commissioning, managing and where necessary dismissing failing contractors and suppliers.
  • Cabinet, therefore, re-iterates its decision taking on 22 September 2011 and re-affirms the full content of the resolution passed, as stated in Cabinet Minute No. 117, including its confidence in the ability and commitment of the workforce to deliver an excellent service, with proper support and good management, over the next ten years.

Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee 20/10/2011 Part 1 (PACSPE call in)

The agenda and reports for the meeting can be found here.

Apologies
Cllr Stuart Wittingham substituted by Cllr Denise Roberts
Cllr Pat Hackett substituted by Cllr Ron Abbey

Present:
Conservative councillors
Cllr John Hale (Chair)
Cllr Don McCubbin (Vice-Chair)
Cllr Steve Williams
Cllr Adam Sykes

Labour councillors
Cllr Denise Roberts (substitute for Cllr Stuart Wittingham)
Cllr Ron Abbey (substitute for Cllr Pat Hackett)
Cllr Jerry Williams
Cllr Chris Jones
Cllr Joe Walsh

Liberal Democrat councillor
Cllr Bob Wilkins

Labour Cabinet member in attendance (who is not part of the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee)
Cllr Chris Meaden (Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Leisure)

The Chair, Cllr John Hale welcomed people to the meeting. Something about the Serious Fraud Office was mentioned and a wish to “close without session”.

Cllr Ron Abbey suggested ten minutes of the meeting in closed session.

Cllr John Hale mentioned something about the press and an inquiry being another matter.

The legal advisor to the committee said it had been brought to Wirral Council’s attention, but the level of information was limited. He appreciated the Labour councillor’s suggestion.

Cllr Bob Wilkins said he failed to see the evidence, but agreed with the Labour councillors to hold it in closed session for ten minutes.
Cllr John Hale said as it was a majority view of the committee, that press and public would have to leave until they were invited back in.

Due to the large numbers of people present it took some time for the room to clear. Some people went home, others waited in the lobby to go back into the meeting.

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In the interests of openness, John Brace lives opposite Bidston Hill which is covered by the PACSPE contract.

Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee 20th October 2011 PACSPE Call-in

Tonight’s meeting was as the Cabinet decision of the 22nd September 2011 on the PACSPE contract had been called-in by Cllr Jeff Green, Cllr Tom Harney, Cllr Dave Mitchell, Cllr Lesley Rennie and Cllr David Elderton.
At the end of a 3 1/2 hour meeting the voting went as follows.

Labour Amendment to Conservative motion

This amendment upheld the original decision.

Votes For         : 5 (Labour councillors)
Votes Against : 5 (Conservatives councillor plus one Liberal Democrat councillor)

Abstention       : 0
Casting vote of Conservative Chair: AGAINST

Votes For        : 5 (Labour councillors)

Votes Against: 6 (Conservatives councillor plus one Liberal Democrat councillor) + Chair’s casting vote
Abstention     :  0

AMENDMENT FAILS

Conservative Motion

Votes for          : 5 (Conservative councillors plus one Liberal Democrat councillor)

Votes against: 5 (Labour councillors)

Abstentions   : 0

Casting vote of Chair: For

Votes for:          6 (Conservative councillors plus one Liberal Democrat councillor) + Chair’s casting vote

Votes against: 5 (Labour councillors)

Abstentions:  0

MOTION PASSES (Proposed Cllr John Hale, seconded Cllr Don McCubbin)

Text of Motion:

This committee notes that:

    • The Cabinet appeared to ignore, and did not even mention, the findings of the Office of Government Commerce Gateway Reviews that the Parks & Countryside Services Procurement Exercise (PACSPE) had been subjected to.
    • No attempt was made to publically question officers from the Finance Department, the Legal Department and the Procurement Unit who were members of the PACSPE Project Board as to whether the “risk” identified by District Audit, and made such play of in the Cabinet resolution could or had been satisfactorily mitigated.
    • No discussion was had by Cabinet Members of the risks of not awarding the contract.
    • No mention or discussion took place regarding stakeholder management or the views of key stakeholders about the benefits of clear quality improvements that were built into the procurement exercise. In fact, other than the view of the Council’s Trade Unions, the results of the consultation and the views of the park users and user groups were not even mentioned in a single Cabinet meeting.
    • No reference was made to the new post of Community Engagement Manager to work with Friends, stakeholders, user groups, and local Area Forums or the new key performance indicators developed through PACSPE to reflect the change to a more customer and community focused service.
    • Insufficient account seemed to have been taken of the reduction from costs of £8.1 million per year to £7.4 million per year already achieved by the PACSPE process with the potential to reduce costs by a further circa £500,000. Indeed, it is hard to understand how the Leader of of the Council characterised a £1.2 million per annum potential saving arising from PACSPE to be sufficiently marginal to be ignored.
    • No effort appeared to be made by Cabinet Members to discuss or evaluate the additional costs to Council Tax Payers of purchasing what has been accepted as worn out equipment requiring immediate replacement (circa £2.5 million) or the TUPE costs of bringing current contractor staff into the Council workforce and pension scheme, per annum or over the 10 year period.
    • No mention was made of the training and development programme for staff and volunteers or the three to six new apprentices to be created as part of PACSPE.
    • No explanation was given at Cabinet regarding the opposition to a 10 year contract that would reduce annual costs by circa £1.2 million and improve the quality of our parks and countryside, other than the expressed need contained in the resolution to reduce spending by £85 million over three years.
    • Therefore we believe that the decision to refuse to award the PACSPE contract would see the ever decreasing quality of a service starved of investment by this administration which is already characterised by going for the quick fix instead of making the difficult but necessary strategic decisions in the interests of Wirral residents.

The Committee recommends to the Cabinet

*Editor’s note will have to check rest of resolution due to noise preventing taking it down*

My guess is that the rest of it is “reconsider the decision”.

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In the interests of openness, John Brace lives opposite Bidston Hill which is covered by the PACSPE contract.

West Wirral Area Forum 6/10/2011, PACSPE (Parks and Countryside Services Procurement Exercise) contract Part 6

Dave Green continued that since 2008 different administrations had agreed to the need for Wirral Council to save money. There were pension costs to do with the contractor joining Merseyside Pension Fund, however there had been briefings and a report on this which detailed the risks and options.

The lack of a bid for in-house provision had been agreed by Bill Norman, Director of Law, Human Resources and Asset Management and Ian Coleman, Director of Finance. The Cabinet resolution called for a report to a further meeting in November detailing a three to five-year business plan. The Cabinet decision had not been executed, although the minutes had been published as the other political parties had called it in. The position was that on the 22nd September a decision had been made, but Cllr Green had submitted a call-in last night (5th October) so it couldn’t be enacted.

Mr. Green said there were time critical issues to do with mobilising the cheapest and best contractor or restructuring the service. However it was “in the hands of the politicians”. He thought it was a good tender at a cheap price. He had sought advice from the District Auditor about the inflation risks. Mr. Green thought it would be November before it was resolved and until then it was in limbo. He said “he never thought politics would impact on grass cutting”.

Cllr Jeff Green said he was interested in people’s questions.

Martin Harrison said he had been on the Parks Steering Group and was the Secretary of the Wirral Parks Forum (which is the forum of the Friends Groups).

West Wirral Area Forum 6/10/2011, PACSPE (Parks and Countryside Services Procurement Exercise) contract Part 5

Dave Green, Director of Technical Services continued by saying that they had received specialist help in going to tender and there had been a massive consultation with undertakers, bowlers, Friends groups and others. He said the undertakers had been the most fun. They had tried to address things and wanted a three-way partnership between the contractor, the Friends groups/users and Wirral Council (who would provide the cash and infrastructure). There were Key Performance Indicators and partnership targets that the Friends groups and users would develop and the contractor would deliver. There was a £100,000 bonus of the contractor met all the Key Performance Indicators.

Mr. Green said it would introduce imagination and innovation. The Early Voluntary Redundancies had reduced the size of the contract down to £7.4 million. However he said there was flexibility and accountability. Due to the size of the contract, European procurement rules applied. An invitation to tender had gone to seven contractors and was scored on a 70% price & 30% quality basis and it had been agreed how quality would be measured.

Six of the seven contractors had beaten the £7.4 million by a “fair figure”. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations would affect about a hundred and fifty people working for Wirral Council. Tenders had gone out in mid-July using CHEST (the North West’s Local Authority Procurement Portal), which had led to the report to Cabinet on the 22nd September. The previous [Conservative/Lib Dem] administration had changed in May. The new [Labour] administration wanted to fully evaluate an in-house bid and how it could be delivered in-house.

On the 22nd September the Cabinet took the decision not to award the contract. The main reasons were to do with demonstrating value for money to the District Auditor, the governance report, Wirral Council’s ability to manage and dismiss contractors and concerns about inflation.