Tag Archives: Newham 6th Form

Oops!

2 Mar

I’ve written before bemoaning the shoddy state of record-keeping and a generally lax attitude to quality assurance at Newham council.

But a paper going to cabinet next week just about takes the biscuit.

This report seeks approval to the correction of the Minutes of the Cabinet Meeting on 20 February 2014

Yes, you read that right. They need to correct a four year-old set of minutes.

Why? Because the minutes of that meeting omitted to record a key decision in relation to setting up Red Door Ventures, the council-owned private rented development vehicle. That decision was to

Agree that the company be provided with funding through state aid compliant loans and grant facilities

So the council has been lending money – A LOT OF MONEY – over the past four years to Red Door Ventures without any properly recorded authority to do so.

Cabinet will undoubtedly agree to

correct the minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on the 20th February 2014 and ratify decisions made under the purported delegated authority, made in good faith, pursuant to the omitted recommendation.

But this is, to say the least, an embarrassing oversight.

On its face, this is an administrative cock up rather than Sir Robin over-reaching his legal authority (in contrast to the Collegiate 6th Form, where he did something he had absolutely no power to do). It is reminiscent of the unapproved £10 million overspend on the East Ham Town Hall campus project. That was also blamed on unnamed officers. The politicians, who should ultimately be accountable, just shrugged it off.

It all reflects extremely poorly on someone who is seeking a fifth term of office, claiming to the candidate of experience and competence.

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Overview and Scrutiny

25 Feb

I’ve Storified the live Twitter commentary from last night’s OSC meeting, with some added notes.

The committee’s witness was the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales.

Scrutiny

23 Feb

Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre

Sir Robin explains to Newham 6th form Collegiate students how their education is at risk because someone ignored legal advice

Tomorrow evening the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee will begin to look at the East Ham Town Hall Campus and Newham 6th Form Collegiate fiascos.

The meeting is, appropriately enough, at East Ham Town Hall. It is open to the public and I’ll be going. [UPDATE: The venue has been changed – it’s now at the Old Town Hall in Stratford]

Councillors and independent members of the OSC have a wealth of material to work through and there are plenty of questions to ask, but if they are looking for a good place to start I’d recommend the PwC  ‘report in the public interest’, which was published on the Audit Commission website last month.

PwC – PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP – were appointed by the Audit Commission to audit the council’s accounts and as such have a duty

… under Section 8 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 and the Audit Commission Code of Audit Practice to bring attention to a number of governance weaknesses identified in respect of the London Borough of Newham’s East Ham Campus project.

The report details a number of failings, including

the fact that the various pieces of legal advice which were sought by the Council in relation to this issue, consistently stated that it was not within the Council’s power to establish the sixth form in its current form. However the legal advice was not followed nor escalated within the Council to the Section 151 Officer or Chief Executive. (emphasis added)

And, alarmingly, that

£10.3m of additional work to one contractor was awarded without following procurement rules and without Members approval.

I submitted an FOI request back in November about the overspend – before the illegality of the 6th form college became known. It was due for a response by 19th December. Newham have not replied and the request in now more than 2 months overdue.

Senior members of the council, the well-paid mayoral advisors and cabinet members who should have been paying attention and weren’t, have consistently claimed this is all the fault of officers; it’s nothing to do with them. I don’t believe that. In Newham no-one farts without the mayor’s permission. That a building project could overspend by £10 million AND a 6th form centre be opened illegally without him and his cronies knowing defies belief.

If Overview and Scrutiny are doing their job properly they’ll be asking who knew what and when they knew it. Officers have lost their jobs over this; it’s high time elected members were held properly to account.

Brass neck

12 Dec

The Newham Recorder has finally got round to reporting on the Newham Collegiate 6th Form and East Ham Town Hall debacle.

And entirely predictably it has regurgitated the mayor’s line that this is all the fault of officers.

It even has a quote from Lester ‘3 jobs’ Hudson: 

“There has been a complete and utter failure by senior officers in the governance process in this project.”

That’s some brass neck you’ve got there, Lester!

Are we really expected to believe that governance has nothing to do with elected members? That the executive mayor, his cabinet lead for finance and chair of the audit board have no responsibility for ensuring that major spending projects are running to budget, or that the authority pays heed to leading counsel’s advice on the legal status of a new school?

The supine and pointless Recorder obviously does. 

If our deputy mayor were being honest he’d have said “There has been a complete and utter failure by elected members to do the jobs residents elected them to do and for which they receive extremely generous allowances.”

That would be swiftly followed by the words “I am very sorry and I resign.”

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!