The York Council has said that it doesn’t hold records of how its public service contracts are being let. A Freedom of information request was submitted asking for the publication of the register which indicates when a Council executive member had – as regulations require – authorised contracts valued between at £250,000 and £500,000.
The issue had arisen following the (correct) decision taken by Cllr Nigel Ayre to formally approve contract letting at a public decision session in November. There was no suggestion at that stage of any impropriety, but the decision was welcomed as a move towards greater transparency.
The report to the meeting made it clear that, what were termed, “routine” decisions had previously been agreed by circulating a copy of a register to executive members.
A copy of the register has now been produced (below)which shows only 10 entries during the last two years.
Officials can’t say when items were approved by Councillors. There appears to be no documentation which would confirm that Councillors had even seen the register.
The register is also difficult to reconcile with the “on line” contracts list (for all local authorities) which can be found here
Any contracts valued at over £500,000 require formal member approval and should appear in the Councils forward programme of decisions. Some, but not all, have been listed.
Of course, the main question is whether the Council is getting good value for money?
There is still a lack of communication on contract specifications with sometimes on line descriptions being impenetrable (e.g. £880,000 being spent on “hard facilities management services”). There is also a lack of information on a contractors subsequent performance against targets. Mostly monitoring is done behind closed doors, if it is done at all.
We have asked the responsible Councillors to review contract letting and management arrangements.