‘WE wish to correct the impression made in the New Journal that the reported contract failure was not subject to scrutiny’, earnestly write Camden’s audit committee chiefs, the Labour councillors Abdul Quadir and Alison Kelly in this week’s letters pages.
As if determined to keep the issue in the public eye (at last), it’s one of two letters from the Labour group this week on Camden’s decision to pay £2.5 million to a private company which had felt unfairly treated in a works contract tendering process and raised legal action.
It’s worth remembering that nobody beyond the Town Hall walls really knew about this payment until we reported it last month (apart from a QC hired by the council to explain exactly how exposed it was) and many on the Labour backbenches – and one of two in the cabinet – feel it is a little silly picking a fight over this one, a story in which Camden clearly messed up. It’s one to take on the chin, it’s been said more than once in private.
More combative senior councillors, however, press on. At a meeting of the Labour group, last week one apparently described it as ‘the worst story in the New Journal in 15 years’. Jinkies! Really? If revealing a bad mistake, which cost a heap of public money to put right, is worthy of such status, you wonder what the second worst story over the 15 years was like.
paranoia anger it should be not over the right to report the case, though, more the ‘impression’ that it was somehow deliberately kept secret… as how could anyone believe such a thing when it was discussed at length at the ‘part II’ section of the audit committee. Part II, folks, is the bit where the public and press are excluded. Only one Conservative member of the committee was present, so this was talked through by Labour councillors, officers and Stephen Stark. So there you go, how on earth did anyone get the impression that the case had not been subject to the most robust scrutiny. Good luck, everybody.