David Pugh: My two regrets over Cowes Enterprise College

David Pugh details his regrets with the CEC project, considering the line between where he accepts responsibility and where he doesn’t.

David Pugh

Today, a letter by ex-Isle of Wight council leader, David Pugh, was published in the County Press, which OnTheWight has replicated below.

By way of background – In April, David declined an offer extended to him, to attend a meeting to question him about the problems experiences at Cowes Enterprise College – Ed.


Dear Sir

In response to my comments on Cowes Enterprise College, your correspondent Mr Wade suggested that I have a moral responsibility to answer questions on the school changes (letters, 11-04-14). I do accept that, as the former council leader, I bear the ultimate political responsibility for what took place during my time in public office.

I have written previously for these pages on the wider issue of school reorganisation, and in particular the good news of last summer’s results showing a clear direction of upward travel. So let me turn my attention back to Cowes Enterprise College (CEC).

This project is, without doubt, the biggest frustration from my time leading the local authority. It was, of course, supposed to be so different; and I am truly sorry that it has turned out the way it has. My regrets are twofold.

Firstly, I regret the overall approach we took to commissioning the project. The money for this school was awarded under the previous government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) initiative, which was subsequently widely derided for its poor value-for-money and ineffectiveness.

One of the key themes of the BSF initiative was to commission bespoke, modern and supposedly innovative designs to house different styles of learning. We chose to adopt this radical approach, which undoubtedly increased the project’s risks due to its ambitious nature. With hindsight, I wish we had commissioned a conventional, reliable school building that was more focused on its practical educational usage than its bespoke design.

Secondly, I regret the faith we placed in the senior council officers overseeing the project. With the reconfiguration of buildings for the main school reorganisation process having gone so smoothly (including excellent new builds at Haylands and St Francis), we had no reason to believe that the same senior officers could not successfully oversee the full completion of the CEC new build.

During the summer of 2012, it became apparent that the CEC project was going to be partially delayed in its completion. However I took comfort from the reassurances we were given, over the ensuing months – by the then lead officer (Janet Newton) – that it was still being delivered within its allocated contract sum and was scheduled for full occupation by 19th November 2012.

It was on this basis that we did not intervene any further at that stage, as we were strongly advised that the project was entirely on track, albeit on an agreed revised timetable. Furthermore, I understand that a County Press reporter was given a guided tour of the building by Janet Newton during the autumn of 2012, and similarly strong affirmations were given at that briefing.

When these reassurances subsequently turned out to be unrepresentative of the situation on site, we were understandably very concerned and angry – particularly as the use of the building eventually had to be delayed to the following September (2013), such was the scale of the problems which needed addressing prior to its occupation. Thanks to the considerable efforts of other council officers over the ensuing months, significant progress was then made in addressing many of these problems, enabling its eventual occupation almost a year later.

As I said above, I accept ultimate political responsibility for this project; and I consider that Janet Newton (one of the IW Council’s highest paid officers) bore operational responsibility for it, alongside the Chief Executive.

Your readers might ask what relevance this all has now. The relevance is simply this: the Executive meeting held earlier this month agreed that significant additional sums would have to be spent addressing outstanding issues in relation to the building. However the reassurances we were given during the summer of 2012 is that the project had been contained within the agreed contract sum. If it truly had been the case that the project had been contained within the contract sum, the recent Executive meeting would not have been in the position of allocating additional taxpayers’ money to be spent on rectifying construction defects in the building.

Furthermore, I consider that if the officers had provided us with a more frank assessment of the project status during the summer / autumn of 2012, we would certainly have taken steps with a view to ensuring that such defects were fully addressed at that stage of the contract (within the allocated budget). It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the additional funds agreed at the recent Executive meeting for rectification of construction defects could have been avoided or minimised had these problems been flagged up much earlier, when the contract was still active. The serious consequence of this not happening is the incurrence, some 18 months later, of additional costs for such rectification.

This leads to a straightforward question for the Independent administration. In light of the project not being delivered on time and on budget, and the nature of the reassurances given (as detailed above), was it appropriate to both exonerate and use taxpayers’ money to make an undisclosed settlement to the senior officer in charge of this project?

David Pugh

Friday, 25th April, 2014 4:00pm

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ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2bRP

Filed under: Cowes, Education, Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News, Top story

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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34 Comments on "David Pugh: My two regrets over Cowes Enterprise College"

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Ian Young

BSF was only derided for its poor value-for-money and ineffectiveness by Michael Gove.

It was a laudable policy, the aim of was to provide modern school buildings for all our children not just the privileged few.

BSF cannot be blamed for a new school with a leaky roof.

ThomasC
What Pugh is trying to say whilst using far too many words is: I screwed up and trusted the officers and didn’t ask the right questions because someone told me they would be ‘doing the best thing’. Sadly a stationary salesman was never going to have the competence to run public affairs effectively. This is why local government councillors need to be remunerated properly to attract the… Read more »
tryme

I feel sure that someone else wrote the letter for DP. He never showed anything like the finesse and emotional equilibrium this shows, while in office.

septua
Sadly, remunerating councillors does not attract the best talent; it is a fallacy. The overall quality of councillors has not improved since remuneration was introduced some years ago. Perhaps it is time we should have selection committees of electors who interview potential councillor candidates to check out their knowledge and experience before they are allowed to be nominated. All council oficers have to demonstrate their qualifications for… Read more »
Cynic

What Pugh could have said even more succinctly: “It wasn’t me, Miss!”

He might have been believed just as much as a teacher believes a child caught red-handed. :-))

Patrick mckay

So,will David be going to the public meeting on Monday and saying sorry?.

Black Dog
OMG. The boy blunder has done it again. Having firmly wedged his foot in his mouth by initial washing his hands of CEC a few weeks ago.Now we find him saying he has regrets and the real culprits are the senior officers. Game on now David, I believe you have opened a can of worms for yourself and this will no doubt tempt whistle-blowers to expose the… Read more »
milly
Poor old Blind Pugh, misled by Government and misled by officers. But where does that leave us? To suggest, as Richard Priest does that we should pick up the Tab is totally wrong.It will make Priest part of the problem and not the solution when the problem still remains after the present “estimate” is concluded. We simply cannot afford it! It would mean solving the budget all… Read more »
retired Hack
Here’s a straighforward answer to one part of Mr Pugh’s straighforward question in his last paragraph. The use of taxpayers’ money to pay off Janet Newton was necessitated, in part at least, by the way in which Mr Pugh’s administration bungled the disciplinary procedure against her. In November 2012 the IWC effectively publicly identified her and another employee as having been suspended. The Council was obliged to… Read more »
sweeny

My two regrets are David Pugh, and the last Conservative administration.

Hermit

Chris Whitehouse, no comments yet…………?

tryme

I hope CW won’t take Hermit’s post as encouragement, when it is clearly ironically suggesting that he is very free with his comments concerning other parties, but not with his own. CW comes up with enough fatuous comments under his own steam.

Mrs Retired Hack

CW is probably busy polishing his megaphone .Carole Dennett has just been turned down for membership of the IW Conservative Association…

Cynic

Classic ICWA shooting themselves in the foot- and missing- just as it did in the last IWC election. Maybe a vote of confidence in the Executive is called for.

If AT decided to stand as an Independent, he might win convincingly smearing the faces of DP and AW with even more egg than they have got already from their recent mismanagement of IWC, education and CEC.

Cynic

Erm IWCA not ICWA…

The Sciolist

Those Tories eh, fighting like bad tempered ferrets in a sack.

Highway to Hell

Should never have been built in the first place!

The existing establishment could have been refurbished to a very high standard for lot less than this cost thus far!

Ian Young
Sadly,I believe the old building was beyond salvation, it was falling apart in the Seventies when I last had contact with it, and in any case building a new school for the young people of Cowes has to be a good thing surely? Had the project been completed on time, on budget and without major snags, all involved would have rightly basked in the glory of a… Read more »
1982 Vivian
Thank you for your “professional” opinion Ex Cllr Pugh. You were on duty when this happened, this all happened under your leadership, and the buck must stop with you. You cannot use your “it’s a private matter” U Tube get out of jail card this time. Interesting to read today that our MP’s partner has been booted out of the Tory Party. I really do hope that… Read more »
steve s

Still no comment from our local member Newport West via Totland and Kennington on the IWCA story. Not even so much as a mention of a nasty cabal. :-s

retired Hack

A Pughtrid cabal, Steve, get it right.
CW’s silence shouldn’t necessarily be confused with inactivity. Someone leaked the Tory story to the County Press. Carole says it wasn’t her…

tryme

I wonder what he’ll call the cabal he’s probably getting together as we speak. Mind you, I expect he loves us talking about him, in whatever vein, because every sign so far is: he’s that shallow.

Albert Street

As deputy leader should you be concentrating on important council issues as opposed to spending a disproportionate amount of time posting provocative comments here?

tryme
Odd that Albert chooses to be indignant about a mildly joshing comment made on a Sunday, in respect of criticising Cllr Stubbings. Rather provocative, in fact. Steve must be doing a worryingly good job! We certainly need the tripe generously posted by CW to be counteracted by the Indies, but in any case OTW is an obvious place for councillors in to keep in touch, highlight and… Read more »
Man in Black

I’m by no means a Conservative supporter but have to agree with Albert St.

Watching the pathetic, petty exchanges between Steve Stubbings and Chris Whitehouse makes my skin crawl.

Sarcasim is the LOWEST form of wit Steve. I would have thought you understood that.

Albert Street

@ Tryme. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to exactly what either Councillor Stubbings or Councillor Jordan has achieved in twelve months.

tryme
The Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm” should apply to all of us, and the Indies score there! When you think of the blundering around of the last administration, not taking an intelligent or in-depth view of things, lots of short-termism, bullying and denigrating their own side, let alone councillors of other parties, lots of decisions behind closed doors … The Indies have achieved a lot by… Read more »
steve s

@MIB. That wasn’t sarcasm, it was satire. Chris was quick off the mark to highlight the recent misfortunes of the Independent PPC but has yet to comment on the Tory MP’s partner not being allowed to join the Tories. I thought that was worth commenting on. Sorry about your skin.

@Albert. I’m putting my hours in, I promise.

Man in Black

Satire? I don’t think so Steve. Taking the bait from Whitehouse does you no favours. It makes you look as petty as he does.

steve s

Ok, thanks. I appreciate your observations.

tryme

Apologies to Mark (recently) – I’ve just posted the same comment twice on this topic, though still a no-show of either, (no link or rude words in it).

Albert Street

“He started first Miss”

Cynic
Mmmm! In 1892 Robert Louis Stevenson published a follow-up play to his Treasure Island novel called “Admiral Guinea”. The first Act closes with the character DAVID PEW, a Blind Beggar, once Boatswain of the ARETHUSA, singing the song: “Time for us to go, Time for us to go, When the money’s out, and the liquor’s done, Why, it’s time for us to go.” A political prediction for… Read more »
worriedparent

David Pugh

“I have written previously for these pages on the wider issue of school reorganisation, and in particular the good news of last summer’s results showing a clear direction of upward travel.”

When you’ve destroyed the education system on the Island, how could it travel any further down !

Incidentally, will the children of the island ever get an apology for the damage to their life chances …..