The person who oversaw Cowes Enterprise construction breaks her silence

The former council officer, Janet Newton, who jointly oversaw the CEC construction project has chosen OnTheWight to deliver her response to recent comments made by David Pugh and Rachael Fidler, as well as lay out key details of her involvement with the construction.

Cowes Enterprise College

Following the publication of a letter from former leader of the Isle of Wight council, David Pugh, over the Cowes Enterprise College fiasco, Janet Newton was keen to respond. The first statement below, she read out to OnTheWight.

The second statement, below the separating line Janet emailed to OnTheWight. It challenges comments made by Rachael Fidler at the public meeting on Monday night.

All of the following is in Janet Newton’s words – Ed

David Pugh is being disingenuous.

This was a large complicated project that had many people involved in the decision-making process throughout my involvement, and that includes the Trust; the Trust’s advisor; the Principal; externals advisers including building control; mechanical and electrical experts; quantity surveying firms; etc.

There was also an IT provider, because there was a significant amount of IT going into the building and the design and build and the IT had to be co-ordinated.

£29.6m contract
The contract was a design and build contract and the building was designed specifically to meet the Trust’s vision for education – as was the ICT solution.

The contract sum was in the order of £29.6m and covered the design and build of the new premises, upgrading the playing fields, demolition of the old building premises and landscaping and floodlit all-weather pitch – and that was to be delivered in three phases.

Three phases of work
The first phase was the upgrade to the playing fields. The second was the construction of the new building and the third was the demolition landscaping and provision of the all-weather pitch.

It was a fixed price contract and also included for the provision of fixed furniture and equipment.

On budget when I left
On 14th November (2012), the contract was on budget. As part of any design and build contract, there is usually a retention of 5%.

Half of that retention is usually released at handover and the balance is released after twelve months.

When I left the project on 14th November, no monies from the retention had been released to the contractor. In addition, the contractor had not received full payment for phase two and monies were held for phase three.

Additionally a contingency sum was also held by the council.

Many parties involved
As previously mentioned, many parties were involved in the decision-making process. I did not have a mandate to act autonomously.

A decision was made on 8th October (2012), whilst I was attending my father’s funeral, that a phased move would take place over a period of weeks.

The contractor, IT provider, Trust, Governors and Principal were all involved in drawing up a de-count programme and attended site meetings on a frequent basis to review progress.

Building signed off in November 2012
In October and November, Building Control confirmed that they were satisfied for the purposes of compliance with applicable regulations that a practical completion had been achieved and they had no objection to the handover or occupation of the building.

On any building contract, there will be snagging items and these can range from minor issues to more serious issues.

Under the contract the contractor has to address these issues. The contract also provides for a 12 month rectification period, whereby the contractor has to remedy issues before they get the balance of the retention.

On buildings of this nature, warranties are also given for a number of things such as windows, boilers, etc. Unfortunately the contractor went into liquidation and clearly couldn’t remedy the defects.

I was exonerated following a review of all the evidence gathered. The council issued a statement on 31st July 2013 to that effect.

Addressing points made in yesterday’s CEC meeting
In the meeting held at CEC on Monday 28th April, Rachael Fiddler maintained that the Trust had been excluded from the delivery of the School by the Council.

This was a blatant falsehood. (Read Rachael Fiddler’s respond).

Rachael Fiddler, members of the Trust, Governors, Trust’s Adviser and Principal, at the time, were fully engaged throughout the process, with regular meetings to discuss all aspects of the delivery including appointment of Pihl, attendance at Design User Groups to determine the layout and teaching spaces, procurement of ICT equipment and managed service, choice of furniture and equipment etc. These meetings were all fully minuted.

There were also many dozens, if not hundreds of email exchanges between both myself and my staff with the Trust and its adviser, ensuring that everyone was on the same page.

Preferred bidders selected by Keith Simmonds
Keith Simmonds was responsible for both the size and scale of the CEC building and selected the two preferred bidders of Pihl and Kier.

The Trust, in conjunction with my team and external advisers, selected Pihl as the main contractor based on their proposal.

The contract was let on a Design Build basis, whereby the Main Contractor were responsible for both the Design and Construction of the building at a fixed price.

Tuesday, 29th April, 2014 4:25pm



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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17 Comments on "The person who oversaw Cowes Enterprise construction breaks her silence"

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Robert Jones
I for one welcome this statement by Ms Newton, who was left in a quite impossible position following the comments the other day by David Pugh. There now needs to be a full inquiry into these matters, and investigation into whether a case might lie against councillors, ex-councillors, officers, and the directors of the contracting company – it may be in liquidation, but the present status of… Read more »

So now that Janet Newton has ‘broken her silence’ does this mean she has broken the compromise agreement / gagging order with the Isle of Wight Council?

sam salt

One would have thought that after David Pugh’s letter about this fiasco and him naming her she had little choice.
I agree with everything Robert Jones has said above and there does need to be some form of investigation.

Robert Jones
That’s why I applaud her statement, really – she may well have run a risk of contravening any “compromise agreement” – in other words, gagging clause – but David’s statement left her with no realistic choice, other than just sit there and suck up the abuse. I look forward to the day, incidentally, when “compromise agreements”, so beloved of our legal chums, are routinely kicked out of… Read more »

I agree RJ but wouldn’t the final financial settlement that was agreed between her and the council on her leaving it’s employ be predicated by abiding by the compromise agreement?

Did Pugh think that because Janet Newton was bound by the compromise agreement that he could safely have a ‘pop’ at her without her being able to respond?

Robert Jones
A compromise agreement is a two-way process; if one party breaches it, the other party has a right to respond (or,more tortuously, to sue). If such an agreement existed, and I presume it did, it was between the council at the time of Ms Newton’s sacking and Ms Newton herself; David was leader of the council at that time, and in his statement the other day he… Read more »

She was never sacked, and she left the Council’s employment with the compromise agreement last summer – when the Independents were in control at County Hall. Let’s get the facts correct.


@Robbo- pls remind me who was in control at IWC at the time Newton and one other officer was suspended?

Oh! I remember now! It was Beynon and Pugh, neither of whom appears to be willing to discuss their roles in the CEC fiasco.


Funding CEC does not come out of the IW Council Taxpayers money or service cuts.That’s the real issue.

Mason Watch

Whatever happens this is going to haunt the Boy Pugh for the remainder of his political career….Mr Responsibility

retired Hack
An important, and I think previously unpublished, claim by Ms Newton is that, at the time she left, substantial sums of money, due to Pihl under the contract, were still being held by the IWC. Could the IWC tell us, please, whether these sums were subsequently paid, and if so why and on whose authority; or have they been set off against the bills which the IWC… Read more »

Can we also make it clear that the often mentioned Trust’s “advisor” happens to be Janet Newton’s predecessor, Keith Simmonds.

Ian Young
After attending the meeting at the school last night it is quite clear in my mind that most parents have moved on from this debate about how the school was built and who was to blame. They are now very much more concerned about the standard of education being delivered within the building both now and in the near future. A very small part of me tends… Read more »
Robert Jones
Robbo – she may have left “by mutual agreement”; the fact is that she was forced out of her job. Her husband has apparently said that “her career has been ruined”. Most of us would call that “sacked”, if it happened to us. The date of her departure from the council is of less interest than the date on which disciplinary proceedings were instituted against her, and… Read more »



IWCA fears the truth about CEC?

I’m confused. When Janet Steadman left, the council still held the 5% retention, the remaining money for phase 2 and all the money for phase 2. Assuming they had to pay the rest of the money for phase 2 and half the retention when the building was handed over, they should still have 2.5% of the retention and all the money for phase 3. So why is… Read more »