Tag Archives: East Ham

Monumental incompetence

2 Dec

Lester Hudson: too busy eating cake to notice a £9.8 million overspend

At the cabinet meeting held on Thursday 25th September 2014 the mayor and his advisors received a report on progress with the redevelopment of the East Ham Town Hall campus.

The report stated that additional funding of £9.8 million would be required and that

“there has been a clear breakdown in Governance and reporting procedures for this project, hence these issues have not been properly reported to the Mayor and Cabinet previously.”

Now cabinet has been summoned for an emergency meeting to consider the fall out from the investigation into what went wrong.

That includes the ‘discovery’ that the council opened a new 6th form college without any legal authority and has, therefore, acted unlawfully.

The investigation reveals both systemic incompetence and an extraordinary laxity in project governance:

One problem is that the programme board overseeing the East Ham Campus works appears to have changed into a project board focusing solely on the delivery of the Sixth Form element of the Programme. This shift was not discussed, or approved by any of the Council’s Statutory Officers…

… financial matters across the whole Programme were not discussed at project board meetings. The Board became concerned only with the September 2014 opening of the sixth form centre. Officers assumed its role was to oversee the correct fit out, the appointment of staff, communications etc. and it is clear that cost reports were never submitted to the Board.

… There were no terms of reference or oversight of the whole project.

… Minutes of the project board were taken by a member of the Programme Team, meaning there was a possible conflict of interest and reducing the impartiality of minute taking.

… [Cost and budget management] is the monitoring of actual expenditure, committed expenditure and forecast expenditure to project completion, against the approved budget. On reviewing the documents it is apparent that this has been at best poor or non-existent.

… Not only was there no cost reporting until March 2014, the reports produced do not show all necessary information, in that they do not differentiate between actual and committed expenditure, nor is there a detailed breakdown of works.

… It appears that arrangements for Contract compensation events (these are similar to contract variations) were agreed on an informal basis. An automated system was in place with thresholds for authorisation that did not align with the Council’s authorisation limits and there were inadequate controls or documentation within the Programme for compensation events exceeding authorised limits.

… There were a number of compensation events that were found on the application system which were over £100,000, and above officer delegated authority levels.

… Formal contractual arrangements for the Sixth Form project were never entered into by Officers… the builder was requested to provide a price for the Sixth Form. No report was not submitted to the Mayor, Members or Statutory Officers and, in addition, the Council’s procurement rules were not followed. [see note below – MW]

… There was no sponsorship or Programme Board for the East Ham Campus works since spring 2013. This meant that progress in terms of delivery (time and budget) of the East Ham Campus works as a whole was not challenged or scrutinised by the Programme Board for a period of at least six months.

And on and on (and on) it goes. Page after page of toe-curling detail.

So far three officers have lost their jobs over this, including the executive director for Resources and Commercial Development and the director of Legal Services and Governance. More will follow.

But what about the well remunerated cabinet members who should have been keeping an eye the project: how were these failures not spotted? Why were questions not asked?

Whose portfolios included oversight for the East Ham Town Hall development and the opening of the new 6th form college? Who among our elected representatives is ultimately accountable?

As Sir Robin has thus far declined to publish details of what his army of ‘mayoral advisors’ are supposed to be doing, beyond vague job titles, we can only guess. 

Deputy mayor Lester Hudson double-jobs as the cabinet member for finance and regeneration. He previously also had ‘Property and Assets’ in his portfolio. If his job title actually meant anything you’d expect him to have taken at least a passing interest in what was going on.

That he didn’t either means his job is meaningless or he’s monumentally incompetent. Either way, if he had a shred of decency, he’d be drafting his resignations from both cabinet and council.

Note: As the cabinet report points out, “It should be made explicitly clear that the liability for the failures in establishing adequate or compliant contractual arrangements rests entirely with the Council and there is therefore no evidence of poor practice or impropriety on the part of the Contractors.”


Without authority

27 Nov

From the cabinet papers for next week’s meeting:

it is apparent from the investigations led by the Chief Executive [into the East Ham Town Hall overspend and reporting failures – MW] that the Newham 6th Form Collegiate was opened without any officer delegated decision notice being prepared as expected under recommendation 5 of the Cabinet decision of 21st February 2013, and that therefore the decision was not properly implemented in accordance with Council procedures.

Further it is also apparent from an investigation into the handling of Legal advice during the development of proposals for the Newham 6th Form Collegiate that the Council has no specific statutory powers to open a Centre without formal public consultation.

Legal advice obtained by the Chief Executive from leading Counsel also indicates that the Council does not have the power to establish a 6th Form under the current statutory framework. 

Coupled with an overspend of £9.8 million on the re-building and the failure of elected members to even notice this, the whole East Ham Town Hall Campus project looks like a cock-up of monumental proportions!

Next year’s council election results today

8 Jul

This is the full list of Labour party candidates selected this weekend to fight next year’s local elections. Given the electoral history of the borough, the vast majority of these people – and probably all of them – will be elected as Newham councillors on May 22nd 2014:

Beckton: David Christie, Ayesha Chowdhury, Alec Kellaway

Canning Town North: Ann Easter, Kay Scoresby, Clive Furness

Canning Town South: Sheila Thomas, Alan Griffiths, Bryan Collier

Custom House: Pat Holland, Rokhsana Fiaz, Conor McAuley

East Ham Central: Unmesh Desai, Ian Corbett, Julianne Marriott

East Ham North: Paul Sathianesan, Zuber Gulamussen, Firoza Nekiwala

East Ham South: Quintin Peppiatt, Lakmini Shah, Susan Masters

Forest Gate North: Ellie Robinson, Seyi Akiwowo, Rachel Tripp

Forest Gate South: Mas Patel, Winston Vaughan, Dianne Walls

Green Street East: Jose Alexander, Rohima Rahman, Mukesh Patel

Green Street West: Hanif Abdulmuhit, Tahmina Rahman, Idris Ibrahim

Little Ilford: Andrew Baikie, Farah Nazeer, Ken Clark

Manor Park: Amarjit Singh, Jo Corbett, Salim Patel

Plaistow North: Forhad Hussain, Joy Laguda, James Beckles

Plaistow South: Gordon Mackinnon-Miller, Aleen Alarice, Neil Wilson

Royal Docks: Steve Brayshaw, Anthony McAlmont, Pat Murphy

Stratford: Richard Crawford, Terry Paul, Charlene McLean

Wall End: Lester Hudson, Ted Sparrowhawk, Frances Clarke

West Ham: John Gray, John Whitworth, Freda Bourne

Boleyn ward has not yet been able to select its candidates due to a dispute with East Ham CLP. The ward party was unexpectedly suspended last week, despite this being the sole prerogative of the national executive. So expect any of Sir Robin’s favourites who failed to make it in the other 19 wards to be imposed on Boleyn.