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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Questions over council contract

It turns out that it is not just the UK Government who have questions to answer over the awarding of contracts. Wales on Line reports that Bridgend Council has no record of how it awarded a home insulation contract to a company run by one of its own senior councillors.

Investigations into the contract started when complaints came in about poor workmanship on houses in Caerau, near Maesteg whose owner occupiers participated in the scheme, known as Arbed. The subsequent report stated: “Total funding of £315,875 was received by Bridgend Council from the Welsh Government:

The funding for both projects was paid to Green Renewable Wales Ltd by Bridgend council. The work was completed in 2013. Subsequently there have been numerous complaints over the standard of work carried out by the contractors."

“In view of ongoing concerns brought to the attention of the council, in 2018, Bridgend’s internal audit service were requested to carry out a review by the then chief executive to ascertain the extent to which the council’s policies and procedures had or had not been applied in respect of the Arbed funding scheme for the period September 2012 to April 2013 in Caerau.

“Particular concerns were raised by the then chief executive relating to an apparent absence of an audit trail. The findings of internal audit highlighted a number of internal procedural issues relating to the governance, decision making, procurement, monitoring and control aspects of the funding that the council administered for this scheme at this time.”

Labour councillor Phil White, a member of Bridgend council’s cabinet until he stepped down last month, was a director and company secretary of Green Renewable Wales.

The company was liquidated in 2017. A consultancy called Nu-Vision was engaged to assess the quality of workmanship on the homes in Caerau. The cabinet report states: “The NuVision report concludes that some of the work is defective, some of it significantly so.”

Given past scandals in local government there are meant to be much stricter controls over council contract than those issued by national governments, though why Ministers should not be held to the same high standard as councillors has never been clear.

Ther questions of Llynfi Independent councillor Keith Edwards are therefore very pertinent. He said: “It is absolutely shocking that there is no audit trail or paper trail relating to the awarding of this contract to Green Renewable Wales. How did the council come to be in partnership with a company that had been established recently and had no track record in delivering such a programme of work? We don’t know.

“What does that tell you about the way the council has been run? This scandal has brought Bridgend County Borough Council into disrepute.

“Who signed a cheque to the company for upwards of £300,000? This is public money.

“The residents, many of whom are old or sick, believed their homes would be improved as a result of their participation in this scheme, and thought the council’s involvement was a guarantee of that.

“In fact the exact opposite has turned out to be the case. I have had numerous complaints about the shoddy workmanship. People deserve to be compensated as a matter of urgency.”

The matter has now been referred to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.
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