FOLLOWING challenges by Thurrock Conservatives Councillors James Halden and Tom Kelly, Tuesday saw the first of two meetings being held to investigate contracts awarded by the Labour run Council.
The meeting heard Councillors believed that insufficient information had been supplied to make a decision and that risks were not fully explored. Cllr Halden said “The decisions were nodded through by Labour with little or no discussion even though details of savings, shared working possibilities and the impact on local companies and residents were missing. As this would leave the Council open to challenge we asked for the decisions to be probed. Had we not, it could have resulted in another set of contracts being awarded without any scrutiny.”
The meeting, one brought under rarely used emergency procedures, heard the issue of temporary staff costs was first brought up in 2006 and the contract would not address the number of temporary staff, just the costs. However, nothing could be confirmed as the amount of saving were linked to the number of temps or interims employed.
Scrutiny Chair Cllr Rob Gledhill said “This has been a difficult process from the start and it took an innovative solution from the Chief Executive to allow these meetings to take place. We heard that there were risks involved and that the savings mentioned might be mitigated by pay increases following recent law changes. I will be working with officers to bring a paper on lessons learned back to cabinet which I hope this will lead to more transparency when awarding contracts. There are clear benefits from this, but awarding contracts without going through proper process opens the Council up to risk, challenge and cost.”