Secrecy still cloaks deal
Letter by Yael Kahn on Islington Tribune
WASTE chief Councillor Clyde Loakes is in denial over the pickle he has got the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) into, even after the attack by the local government minster on the “shoddy deal by a shadowy, unelected body” (Waste authority warned on eve of talks on £4.7bn deal, February 8).
Cllr Loakes insists on secrecy, claiming he only abides by the Public Contract Regulations 2006 (Why we keep contract bids confidential, February 15). His audacity beggars belief, after ignoring thousands of residents who in vain urged him for two years to abide by the 2006 PCR, which legally obliged the NLWA to consider the misconduct of bidder Veolia.
His failure to properly consider No2 Veolia Action Group legal documents by Islington-based Hickman and Rose lawyers resulted in the colossal procurement now having no competitive bidders, when eventually Veolia was forced to withdraw.
But the extent of the unnecessary secrecy is illustrated by his failure to disclose the decision date by the 14 NLWA councillors on awarding these lucrative contracts.
Cllr Loakes’s Letter to Islington Tribune on 15 Feb;
Why we keep contract bids confidential
• I READ Andrew Johnson’s article (Waste authority warned on eve of talks on £4.7bn deal, February 8) with interest.
I was initially surprised that a government minister had indirectly made remarks about North London Waste Authority (of which I am chair) and its procurement process for north London’s waste contracts without my knowledge. On closer inspection it became clear nothing of the sort had happened.
Did local government minister Brandon Lewis specifically mention the NLWA when he made his comments about opening up Town Halls to greater scrutiny? I suspect not. Did Mr Lewis specifically refer to NLWA as “shadowy” as Mr Johnson suggests. Again, I suspect not.
It is a shame that, in order to inject a touch of political glamour to his story, it seems Mr Johnson has falsely implied that government ministers were directing their criticism at NLWA when they were making nothing more than general remarks.
Also, NLWA is not a quango; it is a single-purpose local authority with elected members from each of its constituent borough councils. It operates like every other local authority when procuring contracts for services.
Of course, all local authorities should seek to be as open and transparent as possible. But the law (Public Contract Regulations 2006) states that the much-derided “commercial confidentiality” has to remain in place when companies are bidding for contracts. In short, NLWA cannot legally disclose information provided by a participant of the procurement process. Surely Mr Johnson is not suggesting that NLWA should disregard the law and open itself up to expensive legal challenge at the expense of council taxpayers?
Finally, I can confirm there were no plans to award any contract to any bidder at Tuesday’s authority meeting, and no such decisions were taken. The timetable for these decisions is clearly available on our website.
Cllr Clyde Loakes
Chair, North London