< Car Park report

Comments from Councillor Hales

in relation to the car park working party report phase 2
23rd October 2017
  1. I would like to emphasise that there is support for the principle of this investigation and the report recommendations are accepted, but the Parish Council does need to urgently clarify some information, address important aspects that are missing and address errors contained within it. This will serve to enhance the report, enabling the council to learn lessons and to accurately inform the public who will read the report when published.

  2. Firstly there is an error/contradiction contained within the Executive Summary final paragraph where is states that “no names are mentioned in the report” – yet goes on to do so at appendix 2 and highlights only certain members. The Parish Council will need to agree how to address this anomaly in the report by either redacting the names or correcting the report to reflect the changing membership. However, the report emphasises collective responsibility, so if names are to be included then the Parish Council may consider naming all councillors in post at that time.

  3. The covering letter to the Clerk explains that Mr Potter relinquished his role as independent chair, but this fact is not mentioned in the report. It is clear from the framing of the covering letter that Mr Potter as the independent chair was unhappy – but it is not stated why and his resignation letter is not included. Given the “unresolved differences of opinion” that the working party refers to, it is crucial that the Parish Council should first see any correspondence from Mr Potter concerning his reasons for resignation as the former independent chair, before the Parish Council discuss the content further.

  4. The original objective of setting up the working party was to understand why a fixed price contract, almost doubled in cost. The report was commissioned by the Parish Council and I note that the working party have acknowledged this, but in the first paragraph of the executive summary, it infers that the working party have decided to broaden the scope themselves without apparent agreement from the Parish Council – hence it appears altering the original terms of reference.

  5. The original objective appears to have been lost in the report as a result, as there is nothing captured to explain specifically why, when and how an overspend occurred on a fixed price contract – something the Council and the public want to know. There is no timeline of events or details of the refurbishment requirements in the contract that was issued vs the finished work. General Council mismanagement is cited and many of these issues were already known to the Council (and the public) as they were highlighted by a previous report, part of which was published concerning previous poor Council practices and financial oversight.

    Assuming public consultation had supported the design etc – the public would still have wanted to know why a fixed price contract did not remain fixed – but this has not been addressed by the report.

  6. Also crucially missing are any details about the involvement of a commercial project manager in this process, who was commissioned by the Parish Council. It would be helpful to Council to have some detailed findings of the investigation into the project management company with regard to their specific involvement in the process, terms of engagement with the council, programming of the work and their explanation as to why they saw costs escalate. The only reference to the project manager is a short sentence in section 7 which refers to the fact the company was appointed.

  7. In section 5.1 a consideration not mentioned is that the Parish Clerk writes and owns the minutes which are deliberately concise. Detailed narrative is not captured, so evidence will rarely be found in minutes of full discussions, questions and challenges that occur leading up to decisions. The report may mislead the reader into thinking that Parish Council & their committees’ minutes should be an evidential paper trail of dialogue rather than a record of decisions. It would be helpful to council to understand in more detail about the information the working party expected to see that was not found – as this will again provide valuable lessons.

  8. Parish Council meetings during the phase 2 investigation saw Councillors and public challenging the withholding of information regarding the car park in 2016, resulting in a councillor walking out of one meeting. This does not appear to have been recalled and included, although some members of the working party had been in attendance.

  9. It has not been emphasised that the decision taken to proceed with the project was based on financial information provided to Council at the time by the RFO. Report readers might construe that the decision was taken in the knowledge of the true financial position. This only came to light much later. However the Council’s collective responsibility, for overall poor financial management is of course acknowledged regardless.

  10. With regard to the opinion expressed on the resignation of some members in the context of “interest to the community”, the motivation for the resignations appears to have been wrongly assumed. Some members of the council stated that they could deliver the car park project more cost effectively and efficiently before any contract was awarded, so those councillors stepped aside to enable others to lead and bring to Council alternatives or to proceed in their place. There was every opportunity to stop and take a new direction, so the comment in the report that the contract took on “its own momentum” is not understood and Council would benefit from some explanation about what the Working Party means by this and how they drew this conclusion.

  11. Finally there appears to be commentary on the Hub’s finances, threaded continually through the entire report, as a result no doubt, of the scope being widened by the working party. Any financial context necessary to set the car park against, should only refer to the state of the Council’s finances at that time and it is unhelpful to include narrative about another project and offer opinion as that is outside of the Parish Council’s required scope of the investigation.

< Car Park report

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