MP blasts 'inappropriate' £1,000-a-day council contract

Conservative Duncan Baker speaks after becoming the new MP for North Norfolk. Picture: DENISE BRADLE

Duncan Baker has blasted the Lib Dem leadership at North Norfolk District Council over an "inappropriate" £30,000 contract - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

An MP has fired criticism at a Norfolk council over its decision to award an "inappropriate" £30,000 contract.

Conservative MP Duncan Baker said he was "alarmed" by a 2019 North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) contract which was recently branded 'not adequate' in an independent report.

The £1,000-a-day contract was awarded to Peter Thomas Ltd, a consultant and friend of then senior Liberal Democrat councillor Karen Ward.

The contract was to undertake a 'capability review' - an examination of the existing council management structure.

Karen Ward is standing down as a north Norfolk district councillor. 

Former North Norfolk district councillor Karen Ward - Credit: Denise Bradley

Late last month a review by accounting firm Ernst and Young (EY) concluded the council’s arrangements were “inappropriate” with a significant risk of “non-compliance of internal policies”. 

Faults found by EY included a lack of formal tendering process, documents appearing to be backdated, and two unnamed members of the incoming Lib Dem administration being central to selecting the provider.

Mr Baker hit out at NNDC's leadership for continuing to keep the public in the dark after a meeting discussing the contract was held behind closed doors, calling the council and its cash "not safe" in the Lid Dem's hands.

He said: “I am alarmed that a ‘supplementary page’ to the report exists which the public has not been allowed to see.  

“And that the council’s governance, risk and audit committee chose – even now – to discuss the matter behind closed doors, following advice from an officer that councillors could find themselves in a 'difficult position' were they to ask pertinent questions about the matter in public."

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The MP argued that public interest meant it should have been heard in public, questioning if the council was being run by councillors or officers.

Mr Baker has written to the leader of the council, Tim Adams, raising three questions:

Tim Adams (Liberal Democrats) North Norfolk County Councillor for Cromer division.

North Norfolk District Council leader Tim Adams - Credit: Supplied by the Liberal Democrat

  • If officers who backdated documents were still at the council
  • Why the public is not able to know which councillors acted "inappropriately" so they can be held to account by the electorate
  • And, why it has taken so long for the council to take the matter seriously and why NNDC is denying the public from knowing what went wrong

Mr Adams was contacted but declined to comment and said he would respond to Mr Baker in the coming days.