Extraordinary report in the latest issue of Private Eye, which claims that Croydon Council may be subject to a police investigation over its “questionable” system of awarding contracts, including “links between officers and contractors”.
The satirical magazine has been doggedly following the saga of Croydon’s misfiring transport contract procurements for nearly three years.
Earlier this month, the new £3.7 million council contract with London Hire Services – which had only started on April 27 – had to be suspended because the contractor did not have the required licences and therefore lacked proper insurance for five of its seven vehicles to ferry vulnerable, disabled children to and from St Giles School in South Croydon.
Tim Pollard, the councillor responsible, called the situation a “hiccup”. In fairness, Pollard might have been a bit busy with his voluntary work, running the websites of local Tory MP Gavin Barwell and the Croydon Conservative Association.
This week, Private Eye reports that Michael Lawrence, the former “transport consultant” who was hired to “advise” Croydon’s head of procurement, Nathan Elvery, and who was behind a flawed previous £6.5 million transport deal with Olympic South, may have close connections with London Hire Services.
When Inside Croydon submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of all emails and correspondence in 2009 and 2010 between Lawrence and Nathan Elvery, “the controversial Jedward-haired £150,000-a-year assistant chief executive at Croydon” (as Private Eye describes him), the council earnestly informed us that no correspondence took place between the council executive and his consultant.
The transport contracts awarded by Croydon – in total valued at around £30 million per year – once used to be provided by an in-house council department, until such services were “outsourced”, and put outside direct council control in an effort to achieve “efficiencies”. Elvery claims that “efficiency is in our DNA” at Croydon Council.
Earlier this week, Croydon Council announced it is to hold an internal review of the management of its transport service. This is the third such review by auditors which has had to be conducted in to aspects of its passenger transport service in less than two years.
Read the previous audit report – never published by Croydon Council but obtained by Inside Croydon – by clicking here.
The blatantly obvious question that has arisen is how Croydon can go through a tendering process for such a service and end up awarding the work to a company only set up less than six months before and which lacked the necessary licences for five of its seven vehicles.
Also curious are reports that LHS, formed in September 2010, applied to the Vehicle and Operators Service Agency for licences for this type of service more than two months before Croydon Council managed to put the work out to tender.
Private Eye reports: “Inspector Knacker has been asked to look into Croydon’s questionable scoring system for awarding contracts … These include changing contracts between companies halfway through without retendering, and links between officers and contractors.”
John Bownas, a spokesman for Croydon Council, tells Inside Croydon, “There is no police investigation.”
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- Leaked email shows Elvery wants to call in external PRs (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Council’s £3.7m transport deal collapses over uninsured buses (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Pollard back at the Hub of action after council reshuffle (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)