Council to review contract awards

SUFFOLK County Council pledged to review procedures last night after it emerged chief officers were awarding major contracts without any say from councillors.

SUFFOLK County Council pledged to review procedures last night after it emerged chief officers were awarding major contracts without any say from councillors.

The details emerged after the EADT, using the Freedom of Information Act, discovered details of the contracts awarded to operate the three park-and-ride sites in Ipswich.

Separate contracts worth more than £850,000 were agreed with bus companies without any input from councillors.

The new leader of the county council Jeremy Pembroke has now promised to review the basis of delegated authority to officers and the monetary level at which councillors become involved.


You may also want to watch:


"It is elected members who are accountable for how council taxpayers money is spent," he said.

In answers to questions from the EADT, the county council revealed two bus operators applied to run the first park-and-ride service from London Road, Copdock, in 1997, and two in 2002 when the tender was combined in a joint operation with the second site in Bury Road.

Most Read

The following year, four companies applied to provide the service from the Martlesham.

In each case, the tenders submitted by Ipswich Buses were the lowest, and using delegated powers, the contracts were awarded by the Director of Environment and Transport - the first two by Peter Thompson and the third by Lucy Robinson.

The value of the combined London Road-Bury Road five-year contract is £316,168 and the four-year Martlesham contract is £552,102, which includes bus services and site management. All three are due for renewal in 2007.

When asked why the tenders were not placed before a county council committee for approval, the answer given was: "They were approved under delegated powers within the authority's scheme of resource management."

A spokeswoman for the authority said under the scheme, councillors had laid down the guidelines for the park-and-ride contracts and the chief officer had been authorised to accept "the most economically advantageous tender."

The EADT's inquiries have prompted Mr Pembroke to promise a look at officers' delegated powers to award contracts without reference to councillors.

All three contracts were let when there was a joint Labour-Liberal Democrat administration at county hall and the new Tory leader commented: "When we were in opposition, the information provided now to the EADT was withheld from us because of its commercially sensitive nature.

"The council has an all-party procurement committee and I believe large contracts such as park-and-ride should have been considered by councillors rather than being approved by an officer, even though in all three cases the lowest tender was accepted.

"I will now be asking for a review of the basis of delegation and the monetary level at which councillors become involved. After all, it is elected members who are accountable for how council taxpayers money is spent."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus