Lib Dems call for independent inquiry into housing contracts

September 27, 2010 10:37 AM

HousingAt next week's full city council meeting the Liberal Democrats will ask the Labour Executive to launch a full independent inquiry into the letting of contracts to the collapsed Connaught group. Their calls are backed by Norwich South MP Simon Wright.

"A full independent inquiry is the only way to get to the bottom of what if anything went wrong with the letting process and to restore public confidence in the Council" said Cllr Judith Lubbock, who will propose the inquiry at next week's meeting.

"The Council owes it to the hundreds of workers who lost their jobs and the tenants who have been left in the lurch. We can not sweep this under the carpet, we need to know whether the process was sound and most importantly we need to make sure it is fit for purpose for letting contracts in the future. Learning any lessons will make the cost of an inquiry worthwhile" she added.

Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: "The period since the collapse of the Connaught contracts has been dreadful for Norwich. The City Council must ensure that any lessons that might come from this are learned so that it never happens again. A full, independent investigation must review the discussions and advice that led to the contracts being awarded, and to confirm whether due diligence was applied."

At the meeting, the Labour group will ask for 'cross-party' working and the Conservatives will ask for an internal 'scrutiny review'. The Liberal Democrats argue neither goes far enough.

"An internal review will mean officers and councillors investigating their own work - this is not enough. It might act as a first step, but what we really need is an external review where someone can objectively assess the letting procedure and make recommendations for the future. The Liberal Democrats pushed for an inquiry over the Greyhound Opening homes-for-staff scandal but Labour refused, hopefully this time Labour will give the public and workers the inquiry they deserve and the council the inquiry it needs." added Cllr Lubbock

Notes

1. Cllr Lubbock will ask the following question at next week's meeting:

"The collapse of Connaught, the social housing maintenance group and the contract it held with this council has caused huge concern and disruption for the city's residents and tenants, and hardship for those 320 staff who have lost their jobs. The collapse has also caused many questions to be asked about the procurement process itself. In order that there be public confidence in the council's ability to let future contracts the Liberal Democrats are asking that there be a full independent inquiry into the procurement process which led to the Connaught Housing Repair and Maintenance contract. Please will the Labour Executive who hold ultimate responsibility for letting the contracts agree to a full independent inquiry?"

2. Three hundred and twenty staff contracted to Norwich City Council were made redundant after the Connaught Partnership failed to plug its debt and collapsed earlier this month, just months after the Labour Executive awarded the company the contracts to replace the CityCare group.