Council accused of awarding ‘unlawful’ £15k contract for cemetery work

Hadleigh Guildhall, the home of Hadleigh Town Council Picture: GREGG BROWN

Hadleigh Guildhall, the home of Hadleigh Town Council Picture: GREGG BROWN

A six-figure cemetery project is facing fresh financial complaints over £15,000 of public money.

Two members of Hadleigh Town Council claim the council failed to follow regulations by awarding a contract to manage the town’s cemetery extension without putting it out to tender.

Councillor Angela Wiltshire submitted a freedom of information request to the council after claiming her questions about the contract at public meetings went unanswered.

The response said a council officer was recommended to use GH Bullard & Associates LLP and “as far as we can tell” no request was made to put the job out for tender. The council’s standing orders at the time required three quotes to be sought for spending over £10,000. The contract is thought to be worth £15,000. Documents show several payments have been made to the company, though the extension is yet to get underway.

Former Hadleigh councillor Bill Wilson said he was concerned by the council’s actions.

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“I believe the council was not correctly advised on the tender process and awarding the contract to Bullards was unlawful,” he said. “The contract should be suspended and a new tender process implemented.”

Councillor Andrew Knock has also raised concerns.

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Financial complaints had already delayed the project. The council’s preferred bidder to build the extension, R&D Construction Limited, went into administration last year before starting work.

The council then awarded the contract to Ashwell Construction Limited, claiming it was acting on advice.

However a complaint to Babergh’s monitoring officer said the council should have started the tender process again. It also highlighted a connection between R&D and Ashwell, which were shown on Companies House to have the same director.

The town council put the project on hold to seek legal advice. It has since suspended the contract and held the tender process again by seeking three quotes, though a final decision is yet to be made.

A council spokesman denied the project management contract had been handled incorrectly, as three quotes were not required for “specialist” services. Mr Wilson questioned whether project management was “specialist.”

GH Bullard said the company had been instructed by the council not to comment.

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