Why did Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority pay a PR company £250 a day?
On the right of the photo above is Peter Rushton. He’s chairing a public consultation meeting in Greasby last year, one of the public meetings held to consult with the public on the closure of West Kirby and Upton stations and a replacement fire station at Greasby. It’s a still from this video I took of the public consultation meeting.
He introduces himself as “I’m Peter Rushton from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service”. What I don’t think the public knew then (or perhaps know now) is that Peter Rushton had a contract with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority through his service company Peter Rushton Consultancy Limited.
His contract has a secrecy clause which states:
10.8 Neither the Authority nor the Supplier shall publicise in any media or public announcement information regarding the terms of the Contract, or the Service supplied, without the prior written consent of the other party in either case such consent not to be unreasonably withheld."
However I’m skipping ahead a little here and I’d like to briefly make a point about how this contract was awarded. The contract originally for six months (although it was later extended for a further six months) was for a value of £12,500 and started on the 8th April 2014.
Peter Rushton Consultancy Limited was only incorporated a fortnight before being awarded the contract. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s constitution at the time required that for contracts of this value that two written quotations had to be obtained first. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s constitution required there to be a report if this isn’t the case and 3.3 of their contract standing orders detailed the procedure to be followed:
However what was the contract actually for? That’s detailed in an attachment to the contract. A day was defined earlier in the contract as meaning 7 hours of work.
Contract Ref: RFQ/15/14
SPECIFICATION OF SERVICES
- MFRA is in the process of merging 8 fire stations into 4 as part of a major service reengineering exercise to deliver large scale savings. This will necessitate a large programme of internal and external consultancy.
The service required is to deliver professional communications expertise, a communications strategy and support to the following people during the process:-
- CFO and Exec team
- Director of Strategy and Performance who leads the restructured corporate communications team in house
It will include devising and over-seeing the implementation of a comprehensive communication strategy with all stakeholders to effectively help deliver 4 fire station mergers.
The work will require (but is not limited to) attendance at the following meetings which may take place outside normal office hours:-
- Internal PO briefings
- Public consultation meetings both open and facilitated
- To chair open public consultation meetings
- Briefings with stakeholders in the area including MPs, councillors
- IRMP meetings
The services will also provide for the following:-
- Play a leading role in delivering two events
- Long Service & Bravery Awards
- The official opening of the Joint Control Centre
- Assist Principle Officers on all PO Briefings
- Provide strategic communication advice to Principle Officers
Plus any other duties in relation to the station merger programmes as requested by the Director of Strategy and Performance.
Timescales and fees
The Services will be provided over a maximum of 8 days per a calendar month for a period of six months from the commencement date with an option to extend on the same or different terms which would be agreed between the parties prior to any extension period.
Times, days and hours of the service to be agreed between the parties in advance of any attendance.
- The daily rate for the provision of the Services is £250 plus any pre-agreed expenses.
Total fee is £12,000 + expenses.
Contract Ref: RFQ/15/14
FEES AND INVOICING SCHEDULE
- Peter Rushton will undertake the activities as per the Specification in Attachment 1 during the period 8th April 2014 to 7th October 2014 based on a commitment of 8 days per a calendar month. For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority shall only be charged for days actually undertaken by the Supplier.
48 days will be undertaken during the six month period at the standard day rate of £250. The total value of this contract (including any pre-agreed expenses) is therefore £12,000.
The Authority will apply a ceiling to the Travel & Accommodation Expenses Rates payable to the Supplier of £500 for the six month period. Expenses must be approved by the Authority in advance of being incurred and shall be payable at the Authority’s approved rates in force at the time of Contract award. The Supplier will be required to provide copies of relevant accommodation and travel receipts.
Consolidated invoices shall be presented every 4 weeks clearly detailing the dates on which activities were undertaken and itemising any expenses claimed which were incurred during the same 4 week period.
The Authority shall pay the Supplier the sums due under the Contract, on 30 day payment terms, from receipt of a true and valid invoice.
All invoices should be submitted to:
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Exchequer Services Department
Contract Ref: RFQ/15/14
AS WITNESS the hands of the parties
Signed by and on behalf of the Authority (In Caps): MERSEYSIDE FIRE AND RESCUE AUTHORITY JANET HENSHAW
Signature: (Janet Henshaw’s signature)
Signed by the Supplier (In Caps): PETER RUSHTON CONSULTANCY LIMITED
Signature: (Peter Rushton’s signature)
The six month contract was then extended for a further six months (see below).
Finally, the last report to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority on the outcome of the consultation to close Upton and West Kirby fire stations with a new fire station at Saughall Massie mentioned many of the expenses that related to the consultation, but nothing was in that report about this contract. If the cost of this contract had been included in the report, there should’ve been an extra £6,250 mentioned in the report (£25,000 divided by four is £6,250).
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