Cllr Welsford defends right to debate breach of constitution in chamber

Independent councillor for Ventnor East, Chris Welsford responds to Cllr Pugh’s earlier statement over his ‘breach of constitution’ motion (speech also shared below) that was stopped in its tracks at full council on Wednesday.

quiet-please-belch

In his own words. Ed


In response to Cllr Pugh’s earlier statement, I am a qualified investment manager and invest millions of pounds in the stock market on behalf of many very wealthy clients. Hardly a left wing agitator.

I just happen to believe in social justice and understand Politics, having completed my degree in the subject, unlike him.

No practical business experience
In fact, he is unable to demonstrate any practical business experience or attainment in higher level education, which is possibly why he so confidently defends the practices that led to the PFI Highways decision being made under his leadership.

Time wasting
As for wasting time in Council, he does that all the time, wasting time with long drawn out responses that are open political attacks on the opposition groups, accusing them of the very things he himself has made a career from and indulging in self adulation of his policies that have led to the absolute mess that this Council is now in.

Seeking to divert attention
He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself over the completely inadequate Child Protection Ofsted, which definitely blames the political leadership for the risks we are exposing vulnerable young people to. He is seeking to divert attention and focus on election he knows he unlikely to win, as the chickens all come home to roost.


Cllr Welsford’s motion
His motion asks:

That Council notes:
1) Any assessment of a bid for an important tender with long term financial consequences for this Council and the Isle of Wight, must take into account the probability of that bid being deliverable, with or without recourse to contractual penalties.

2) The need for a new dedicated Asphalt Plant is an important strategic requirement that will enable VINCI Concessions, Meridiam Infrastructure and Ringway to successfully comply with the terms of the PFI contract.

3) The Isle of Wight Council’s Environmental Health Department expressed serious concerns regarding the proposed Asphalt Plant, recommending that planning permission be refused, which was information available but not disclosed to cabinet members at the time of the Cabinet decision taken in May 2012.

4) The Highways PFI decision, takenbyCabinet andratifiedby Full Council breached the Council’s constitution in the following ways:

The following constitutional “Principles of Decision Making” highlighted in bold, were not complied with (bracketed letters correspond with those sections from the Constitution):

1. (a) That relevant matters are taken into account:

  • Relevant Information relating to a significant component of the winning bid was not evaluated and was in fact deemed irrelevant (under the terms of (b) “Nothing irrelevant is considered”)
  • The decision to ignore this information provided a false impression to Cabinet Members and to Members, meaning that they voted without full knowledge of pertinent facts relevant to their assessment of the bids

2. (d) That proper advice is taken and considered before the decision:

  • Proper advice relating to the quality of the Vinci Meridiam bid was not made available to cabinet members and was therefore not taken.

3. (g) Proportionality (i.e. the action must be proportionate to the desired outcome):

  • Because the requirement for a new Asphalt Plant is an important part of the Vinci Meridiam bid, for which there is no stated “plan B”, Environmental Health’s advice and recommendation for refusal of planning permission, on such fundamental environmental health grounds, was highly relevant to the desired outcome.
  • The proportionality requirement would suggest that consideration should have been made as to the comparative virtues of preserving the separateness of the two processes or allowing information to be shared between the two in the interests of a desirable outcome for the bidding process.

4. (j) Presumption in favour of openness:

  • In this case the presumption appears to have been in favour of non-‐disclosure of information that was relevant to the Cabinet evaluation and decision-‐making process.

Proposing Speech:
I do not want to discuss the merits of the Asphalt Plant planning application as that is a matter that will be discussed at length by the planning committee and I have no wish to prejudice that committees work or the decision that they will come to based on the facts at their disposal at that meeting.

I also do not want to focus on the role of officers in this matter. Ultimately, officers of this authority are here to implement policy and follow procedures that are the responsibility of politicians.

Debate should be on policy and procedures
Whilst I am deeply unhappy about the way in way the Highways PFI decision was reached, the focus of this debate should be on policy and procedures and the role of the constitution in our decision making processes.

My assertion that the constitution was not followed in this case has implications for decisions that will be made in the future. The main reason given by the Cabinet Member for ignoring the information that was provided by Environmental Health, in making the Highways PFI decision, was that this information was irrelevant to that decision and that the two processes, PFI and Planning, are completely separate.

Additionally he told members that “how the successful bidder fulfils the contract is entirely a matter for them” and this point has been reiterated time and time again, based on the fact that the planning process is a quasi judicial process that cannot be influenced by political interests, whereas the Highways PFI decision is a political matter.

Information from planning process should be used
Whilst I entirely accept that these are indeed discrete and legally separate processes, there is absolutely no reason why information that becomes available from the planning process cannot be used to help inform a decision that is to be made regarding another matter separate from that planning process.

In this case I have been told that the contract specification is capable of being met without the planning application being successful. Whilst that may be true, the chance that financial penalties will be imposed as consequence of Vinci having to source Asphalt off Island becomes far more likely. Is this really any way to begin a 25 year relationship.

A sour start to 25 year contract
It seems to me that there is a real risk that this could turn very sour in the first year. I do not want to be in a position where the provider of all our highways services is financially damaged from the off and then spends the rest of the term of the contract trying to fond ways to cut costs to recoup the initial and possibly on-going losses.

All of this could have been avoided had the means by which the contract was to be fulfilled been properly considered. But as Cllr Giles has told us, he is not interested in how the contract is fulfilled, only that it is.

Information could be used confidentially
There is no reason why the information supplied by environmental health on the 24th May could not have been used confidentially by Highways PFI Team and members of the Cabinet charged with agreeing the final bid. But that information was not made available because of the procedures and policies of this council that say the two processes are separate and because of the insistence of the cabinet member that “how the successful bidder fulfils the contract is entirely a matter for them”.

All information should be deemed relevant
That would not work in a commercial setting. In business, all information would be deemed relevant to such an important strategic decision. Nothing would be excluded and quite frankly, it is clear from reading our constitution, that we should be ensuring that relevant matters are taken into account. But because of the way that politicians decided to approach this, that never happened.

I do not know what can done about the decision made in May and ratified by full council in August. What I do know is that I do not feel that we had sufficient information at our disposal to make that decision.

You simply ignore what I am saying
I suspect that you, the ruling group, will simply ignore what I am saying and carry on as before although I hope not.

What I want you to do is to look at the reasons why you have acted in the way you have and put in place procedures that will in future allow the confidential use of information that emerges from any other process, including planning, so that decisions in future are made in a fully informed and business-like way. In that way we will avoid the same thing happening again.

Image: Blech under CC BY 2.0


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Friday, 18th January, 2013 10:42am

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11 Comments

  1. wightywight's comment is rated +18 Vote +1 Vote -1

    18.Jan.2013 11:25am

    That’s clear enough Chris. As if it wasn’t before….!!
    It is inane of the ruling group in general, Cllr Giles specifically, to suggest that there is no concern over how the contract will be carried out. Inane and incorrect as you have gently reminded them.

    Tender processes, especially this one, involves inordinate amounts of information being provided by the tenderer to establish and assure *they* (the tenderer) is capable, able and sufficiently experienced to carry out the contractual obligations. This “information” as you well know and as no doubt many others both in business and outside business know and/or have experience of, is far reaching and wide sweeping.

    The building blocks of assessing ANY tender inevitably consist of considering ALL aspects of the tender …not just the bottom line price offered for the contract.

    I have been involved with this Council on a tendering (and subsequent contractual arrangement) basis involving services in excess of million of pounds. The tender process and documantation is extensive and is almost infinite in the request for data about the tenderer. I won’t list the sort of thing but it covers just about ALL corners of an operating business from the ground up.

    These processes are EXACTLY to find out which tenderer is capable (note here the word *capable*…) of carrying out the contract IF they were awarded the contract. They are key, fundamental factors that impact and impose on the decision to award the contract to a successful bidder.

    It is just an absolute fallacy to now suggest (as is Cllr Giles on behalf of the ruling group) that factors such as the ability to fulfill and provide the service tendered for is of any concern! Of course the factors are of concern…they have been from the outset when drawing up the tender documents, when interviewing the bidder(s) and when considering who to choose.
    It’s not good enough by any stretch of the imagination to state that factors that *could* or *might* impact the ability of the successful bidder to fulfill the contractual obligations are of no concern.

    It’s more than just “not good enough” ..it’s downright fallacious.

    To suggest that Council officials and elected representatives need have no concern over how ..”the contractor fulfills his obligation….” merely that he does is just amputation of the whole process.

    There can be no greater consideration from the outset, prior to awarding the contract, (..and notwithstanding price is important) than being assured that when a contract is placed by the Local Authority, the successful bidder MUST be able to fulfill the contractual obligation. Not just *say* he can, he must DEMONSTRATE his capability to do so. Hence the reason and need to undergo the extensive data aquisition from the tenderer(s).

    Clearly, if this administration is suggesting it has/had no need to consider the very widest factors before awarding the contract then it has failed in its’ duty of care to the electorate and to the residents of this Island and their own office.
    Of course information about the tenderer is critical to any decision being made and if, as you suggest, that information is not only known but ‘withheld’ from those tasked with making the decision then there IS a Breach of the Constitution rules.

    You have expressed that, you have demonstrated that and you have provided the relevant evidence to support that.

    This cannot be allowed to be swept away on a whim of false assertion, there are constitution issues which transcends the issue itself.

    Stifling debate is one way this ruling group seem to think they can maintain control and power.
    Most people actually see through this lack of transparency and it will be amplified come May…in spite of how the Leader wishes to regurgitate small historical voting patterns…..votes that precluded much of the disgraceful recent actions this Council have actually taken …

    Please keep going on this….it is a valuable service to all Islanders that you do…

    WW

    Reply
    • lardi's comment is rated +1 Vote +1 Vote -1

      18.Jan.2013 12:06pm

      If I was under pressure to fix the roads, had read the alluring glossy brochures about PFI and I was commercially and technically out of my depth, I would want to stifle any debate which might bring in another impediment to getting rid of those pesky potholes.

      Reply
  2. James Luke's comment is rated +13 Vote +1 Vote -1

    18.Jan.2013 12:25pm

    There are two possible scenarios here.

    Firstly, it is possible that the Council awarded a contract to a company that had no capability to deliver. That would be a serious (incompetent) mistake.

    Alternatively …. the Council may have been fully aware of the requirement for the Asphalt Plant and may have discussed that situation with the bidder! That would be a scandalous breach of protocol and trust. Eurovia have stated that the Asphalt Plant is “strategically important”.

    If the latter, then it is no surprise that debate on the PFI is being avoided. It is no surprise that Councillors refuse to comment. It is no surprise that meetings between the Planning Dept and Eurovia are not minuted. It is no surprise the key elements of the contractual documents have been redacted.

    Reply
  3. cynic's comment is rated +1 Vote +1 Vote -1

    18.Jan.2013 1:32pm

    What are the PFI contract termination clauses?

    Reply
    • wightywight's comment is rated +3 Vote +1 Vote -1

      18.Jan.2013 2:28pm

      @cynic:

      ;0))

      I’ll wager the Council will take the FOI Act, Section 43 *guidance* on commercial sensitivity and refuse to release the contract on those (spurious) grounds …if requested.
      Course, a FOI could be made specifically for those clauses alone….. that would be difficult to defend on commercial sensitivity…. The ICO might well NOT support the witholding of that data..

      WW

      Reply
    • James Luke's comment is rated +6 Vote +1 Vote -1

      18.Jan.2013 3:18pm

      The PFI Contract is available here => http://www.iwight.com/documentlibrary/letter/h

      It took weeks of FOI haggling to get this released. However, key elements are redacted. For example, the base case is redacted – I believe that this is where the financial impact of any Asphalt Plant decision may be hidden. Similarly, the section on revenue sharing is also redacted.

      I don’t know if the termination clauses are visible or not.

      Reply
  4. evelyn knowles's comment is rated +17 Vote +1 Vote -1

    18.Jan.2013 2:00pm

    Keep at them Chris, they get away with far too much. They are like those nodding dogs in the back of a car.
    The ignorance and list of unrevealed issues in this serious business, which has such a long term effect on the Island and its people, is shocking.
    The suppression of democratic debate equally appalling.

    Reply
  5. Island Monkey's comment is rated +10 Vote +1 Vote -1

    18.Jan.2013 3:42pm

    So to be clear, Cll’r Pugh claims that his PFI did not ever require millions of tonnes of tarmac products to be made here?

    Where in the plan WAS this stuff to be manufactured if not on the Island?

    How did desperate Dave and chums imagine it would be transported to the Island – and where would it be offloaded?

    Do they not realise tarmacadam is delivered and worked hot? It cools rapidly and therefore has a very short shelf-life. Where exactly do they plan on dumping the material that gets too cool to use?

    Despite spending £7 million on so called experts this past few years – did no-one think to ask a few basic engineering questions?

    Heaven help us. The new council is going to need a very large broom to clean up the mess left by the Tories.

    Reply
  6. bayboy's comment is rated +1 Vote +1 Vote -1

    19.Jan.2013 11:58pm

    Mess left by the Tories? Don’t forget that the Lib Dems and Independents of the Island First council were thrown out for their incompetence, so who do we turn to now? UKIP? Greens? BNP? Labour Ha Ha Ha Ha? Answers of the back of a postage stamp please.

    Reply
  7. Mr Magoo's comment not rated yet. Add your vote Vote +1 Vote -1

    21.Jan.2013 2:34pm

    Independents’ anthem?
    Fed up with politics in local government and need a song to cheer you up? Then go to YouTube and find B*gger the Bankers … catchy tune and it’s guaranteed to make you smile.
    The official video version even has the words so you can sing along and make it the anthem for the Independents who have County Hall ambitions.

    Reply

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