County council insists payment to incinerator consultants did not break rules
GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Council has insisted it did not break any rules by paying planning consultants almost £80,000 for work relating to the Javelin Park incinerator project.
The authority brought in experts from BPP Consulting in November to help draft the planning report which was put to councillors tasked with deciding the application but crucially it did not put the work out to tender nor did the council seek quotes from any other companies which might have been interested in it, despite a rule stipulating it should have done so.
When asked by the SNJ back in November how much GCC could spend before having to put the work out to tender, the paper was told by the council that its threshold was £50,000.
However, responding to an inquiry from the SNJ last week, GCC confirmed it had in fact exceeded that limit by paying BPP a total of £77,605 including VAT for its services.
GCC has been accused of ‘cronyism’ in the past for foregoing a competitive tendering process and awarding the contract to BPP because of links between senior figures at the authority and the planning consultancy.
The council’s chief operating officer Duncan Jordan worked with one of the partners in BPP Consulting during his time at Essex County Council seven years ago whilst the authority’s strategic development manager at the time, Chris Kenneford, also worked with the company while employed at Buckinghamshire County Council earlier this year.
At the time, BPP’s appointment was highly controversial because its planning consultants were brought in to replace a council officer who had voiced his intention to recommend the incinerator application for refusal or deferral.
Anti-incinerator campaigners felt that by contracting with BPP, council bosses were simply bringing in ‘yes men’ to handle the application.
However, Mr Jordan defended the appointment by saying that BPP were ‘planning experts with significant experience in waste management and environmental applications’.
A GCC spokesman also said that it was not unusual for Mr Jordan and Mr Kenneford to end up working again with BPP given that all of the consultancy’s partners had spent time working for local authorities in the past.
Another council spokesman said the authority exceeded its £50,000 threshold because it made an initial contract payment of £40,000 to BPP and then, in January, realised it would need the consultancy to undertake additional work related to the project.
But GlosVAIN member Ian Richens said: "What is the point in having a rule requiring you to complete a tender process if you can just break it?
"The original estimate for the cost of this work was £7,000 and now it turns out it's cost 10 times that. How is that possible?"
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