Better late than never

5 Jun

Six months after I submitted it, my FOI request on the East Ham Town Hall fiasco has finally been answered.

Here’s what they had to say, with my original questions and some additional commentary:

1. [Could you please tell me] Why item 11, East Ham Town Hall Campus Update, for the cabinet meeting held on 17th July 2014 was withdrawn? 

Response – The report to Cabinet was withdrawn in July 2014 to allow for all required information to be obtained and collated. 

Comment: This response suggests the problems were known about – if not yet quantified – at least as early as July 2014, but the September cabinet meeting was the first time elected members were told. Does this square with the mayor’s repeated assertion that action was taken as soon as the problems came to light?

2. Is there a steering committee for the East Ham Town Hall Campus (EHTHC) redevelopment project, as there is for the re-build of the Atherton Centre in Forest Gate?

Response – An East Ham Campus Programme Board was established in November 2014 and they convene on a monthly basis. Prior to this Board being established it was simply called a programme board. 

Comment: The only difference appears to be the capitalisation in the name. When was the (lower case) programme board established?

3. If so, please provide a list of all current and past members of the EHTHC steering committee, the organisations they represent and the dates of their membership. Where members are council officers, please state the department or directorate for which they work.

Response – All members of the Programme Board are LBN officers. The Chief Executive chairs the meeting and representatives from the following services are members of the Board:

  • Kim Bromley-Derry – Chief Executive
James Thomas – Director of Commissioning (Children’s Services)
Siobhan Fry – Principal Lawyer

  • Paul Durrant – Senior Business Partner Strategic Commissioning and Community

  • Deborah Hindson – One source MD

  • Mark Butler – Director of Asset Management Services

  • Gary Bird – Interim Head of Communications 

Comment: That’s the current membership; who was on the original board? In evidence to Overview and Scrutiny (OSC) Kim Bromley-Derry insisted no membership list was kept. This answer is consistent with that, but I remain sceptical.

4. Please provide a list of dates of meetings of the steering committee, along with copies of agendas and minutes. 

Response – Please find attached the following: 

  • 12th November 2014: Agenda states 10th November but held on 12th 
  • 25th November 2014
1st December 2014

  • 12th January 2015 
9th February 2015: No agenda was despatched for this meeting 
  • 16th March 2015 

Please note that the name of a junior officer has been redacted.

Comment: Again, these are meetings of the new (upper case) Programme Board. Kim Bromley-Derry said at OSC no minutes were kept of the old board. But reports submitted to it were used to compile the report Cabinet received at their September meeting, so there was some documentation. Perhaps OSC should ask to see it.

5. What project management framework does Newham work within? (e.g. PRINCE2, PMBOK, etc.) 

Response – Newham Council has recently developed a new Project management methodology called MAPP (Managing and Achieving Programmes and Projects) which is embedded in an automated ICT solution called Verto. This work has evolved into the implementation of a corporate PMO. MAPP methodology and Verto system are mandatory to use in every new project at Newham. 

Comment: The clear implication here is that Newham had NO project management framework in place until now. This is truly shocking.

6. Please provide a copy of the project charter and the project initiation document (or their equivalents in the project management framework you use) for the EHTHC redevelopment project 

Response – As this project was initiated before the introduction of MAPP, these documents are not available. 

Comment: To someone who has worked in public sector project management this is simply unbelievable.

7. Which mayoral advisor’s portfolio currently includes oversight of the EHTHC project? 

Response – As this project crosses over a number of portfolios, Sir Robin Wales and Councillor Lester Hudson have oversight.

8. Which mayoral advisor’s portfolio included oversight of the EHTHC project prior to the election in May 2014? 

Response – Councillor Conor McAuley. 

Comment: This will be news to Cllr McAuley. He gave evidence to OSC in March that his involvement was limited to shepherding the initial phase through the planning process. After that responsibility passed to Lester Hudson and Andrew Baikie. 

9. Which of the council’s scrutiny committees has oversight of major building and 
redevelopment projects such the EHTHC and Atherton Centre?

Response – This is dependant on the nature of the scrutiny being undertaken but it is likely that Building Projects would come under Regeneration Scrutiny Commission. However, the work plans of all Scrutiny Commissions are approved by the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny who can determine which commission is most appropriate including Overview and Scrutiny Commission. 

Comment: We know that OSC itself has taken an interest in East Ham Town Hall, but only after the problems were publicly revealed. They  have yet to publish their report, so we will have to wait and see what that has to say.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: