So, we receive final confirmation today of what I predicted on this blog nearly 4 months ago [http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=1617 ]: that the government does indeed firmly believe that the decision of Norfolk County Council to award the contract to build the NDR (Northern Distributor Road) to their ‘colleagues’ at May Gurney was “legally unsound” [ See today’s EVENING NEWS: http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/content/news/story.aspx?brand=ENOnline&category=NewsSplash&tBrand=ENOnline&tCategory=NewsSplash&itemid=NOED07%20Jan%202008%2009%3A11%3A43%3A067 ].
This dreadful mistake by the County Council – a mistake which was totally predictable, and which was in fact predicted (the prediction in fact first appears in the public record in some comments made by my colleague Green Party County Councillor Andrew Boswell (see below), way back in July), and yet which, remarkably, officers and Tories on Norfolk County Council are still defending, even after the government have ruled it illegal – will delay building of the NDR by about 2 years (sob…) and (and in a way much more important) will probably cost the taxpayer millions.
Any self-respecting person, under such circumstances, would resign. One is left to draw one’s own conclusions about Adrian Gunson and the other negligent individuals who have created this fiasco.
I am outraged that the people of Norfolk — every single taxpayer, myself included — will have to pay more Council tax or lose invaluable Council services, because of this nepotistic incompetence. Is it any coincidence, that there are several letters on the Letters page in today’s EVENING NEWS, which rightly bemoan the fact that the County Council is proposing to make £22m in cuts in services, this year! How unacceptable is that: waste Council-tax-payers’ money by messing up your effort to build a (huge climate-dangerous) road, and at the same time cut virtually everything else in the Council to the bone…!
As I say: if they had any civic pride and self-respect, those responsible would now gracefully take full responsibility – and resign.
Appendix: How Greens have been warning of this fiasco in the making for 6 months:
On July 24th, 2007, Andrew Boswell specifically raised the issue of legality and the likely challenge to the Councl from the DfT at the Norfolk County Council Cabinet Scrutiny meeting. These are the minutes of his question and the answers from the Cabinet member and officers involved (emphases added):
Dr Boswell commented that the need to seek Department for Transport (DfT) approval to appoint May Gurney raised the question that despite legal opinion, DfT might still have concerns. When would DfT give its opinion? What confidence did NCC have that legal opinion wouldn’t be challenged either by DfT or the European Union (EU) or local competition? Also, how confident was the County Council that the £61m from the Regional Funding Allocation would be available.
The Cabinet Member explained that both the Audit Commission and the Government had supported the SPC. Just because NCC was one of the first local authorities to use the arrangement, didn’t mean it was the wrong approach. NCC had already saved millions through the Partnership.
The Head of Law added that decisions were always open to challenge, but that NCC was as confident as it could be. Every avenue had been pursued to get the assurance NCC needed that it had taken the correct route.
The Director of Planning and Transportation added that he couldn’t see why DfT would have a problem as the SPC was emerging standard practice. Nevertheless, securing DfT support was critical and Planning and Transportation would be seeking an early meeting. The SPC would allow a flexible approach to the extent that there was uncertainty about the Regional Funding Allocation.