LAMBETH TO SPLURGE £15 MILLION ON CENTRAL HILL…FOR A ‘DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT TEAM’ Call-in by councillor refused – as People’s Audit Lambeth raise “serious concerns” over tendering process for second estate

Lambeth council – which has no money to spend on repairing Central Hill estate – are to splurge £15 million on a development management team there prior to its demolition.

And a ‘call-in’ by one of Lambeth’s four opposition councillors over the Central Hill decision has been refused.

The move comes as People’s Audit Lambeth raise “serious concerns” over the tendering process used to award the contract to oversee regeneration of Fenwick estate in Clapham – another of the six estates Labour Lambeth Labour are hellbent on demolishing – to the same company.

On the Central Hill move Cllr Scott Ainslie (Green) told News From Crystal Palace: “I called it in, it was refused, but I’m pushing back.

“£15 million is way over budget” says Cllr Ainslie who challenged the decision on several grounds including:

– inadequate budget
– the high cost of the contract
– potential conflicts of interest
– lack of residents’ ballot (which may preclude funding from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan)

Cllr Ainslie, who is now appealing the council’s decision, says: “The numbers supplied in council papers just don’t add up and there are still questions to be answered about the choice of contractor.

“When such large sums of public money are being spent on behalf of council-tax-payers, it is essential that there is public confidence in the integrity of the decision-making process.

“For the public to have confidence in the councillors and officers making these decisions, there needs to be total openness to questions and scrutiny by their elected representatives.”

Conservative opposition leader Cllr Tim Briggs, who sits on the overview and scrutiny committee which discusses ‘call-ins’, told News From Crystal Palace:

“We will leave it to the Greens to call in Central Hill, as I will probably sit on the scrutiny commission and have to keep an open mind about it just in case.

“But as you know broadly I do not believe that Labour councillors should be able to not do repairs and use that as an excuse to destroy peoples homes, take away their secure tenancies, push them out of the area or force them to live in poorly-built accommodation for higher rent, higher service charges and higher utility bills.”

People’s Audit Lambeth said in a statement: “A response to a Freedom of Information request by the People’s Audit, has revealed that the initial award of the Fenwick contract to Mace Ltd was the second highest of four tenders received – and nearly £8 million higher than the council had originally anticipated.

“The council reversed its decision to award the contract to Mace in July 2017 – after a legal challenge by rival company Karakusevic-Carson Architects. “Now Lambeth council have provided the figures on which the initial decision to award the contact to Mace was made.

“They reveal that Mace’s tender was the second most expensive of the four made. “The Mace tender of £12,919,600 was £5,589,665 higher than Karakusevic-Carson’s and £729,204 higher than the second lowest tenderer of Mott Macdonald.

“The People’s Audit has also discovered that costs of terminating this initial procurement process are estimated to be £100,000, with £84,000 of this being spent on legal advice alone.”

People’s Audit Lambeth co-ordinator Simon Morrow said:

“These figures raise some serious questions about how the original decision to award the contract to Mace was made.

“It beggars belief that a bid more than £5 million higher than one of its rivals could have provided outstandingly better value for money for council tax-payers.

“With so many multi-million pounds contracts currently being awarded to consultants by Lambeth council for its estate regeneration programme, it is essential that people can have confidence in councillors and officers making decisions that stand up to scrutiny.

“From the information now available, this appears not to be the case for Fenwick estate – and councillors representing the people of Lambeth should be taking urgent action to ensure the integrity of its tendering processes.”

People’s Audit Lambeth say other estate regeneration contracts awarded by Lambeth council include: Mott MacDonald (£6,674,496 for Cressingham Gardens, Tulse Hill) and Tibbalds Campbell Reith (£2,287,000 for Knight’s Walk, Lambeth and £4,118,000 for Westbury estate, Wandsworth Road). (The sixth estate Labour Lambeth want to demolish is South Lambeth).

On Feb 19th 2018 Mace Ltd were also awarded the £15,553,333 development management contract for redevelopment of Central Hill Estate.

TAKING THE BISCUIT…….LambethLabour Retweeted
Gipsy Hill Cllrs‏ @GipsyHillLab Mar 3

A photo on Lambeth Labour Twitter shows a smiling Cllr Matthew Bennett with fellow ward Cllrs Jennifer Brathwaite and Luke Murphy (Labour deputy chief whip) and four others on the snow-covered Central Hill estate. Their Tweet reads: “Out canvassing this morning with a committed Labour team in Gipsy Hill. “Thanks to everyone who braved the cold to join us!”

Note: DCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) definition: “Development Management is end-to-end management of the delivery chain for sustainable development”

UPDATE: Transparency in the public interest

The full report by People’s Audit Lambeth states: Four days after sending us the spreadsheet, Lambeth wrote again stating “This information was intended to be withheld from disclosure under the ‘confidentiality of commercial information’ exception that was applied to points 3 and 4 of your request.

“We would please request that you do not circulate this information and delete the file that was sent to you. “If the contents of this file are made public, it could greatly damage the council’s ability to obtain best value for money during the re-tender process for this project.”

The People’s Audit is publishing the information as we believe there is an overwhelming public interest in Lambeth council taxpayers seeing how flawed Lambeth’s decision making process was and in knowing how much public money would have been wasted had a legal challenge not been brought against the decision.

Peoples Audit Retweeted Love Wapping‏ @LoveWapping:

Can we have our FOI information back please? Loony Lambeth Council begs @PeoplesAudit #localgov #citizenaudit

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