New twist in row between MP and council boss

Tim Adams has said he will not communicate with Duncan Baker for two months 

Tim Adams has written an open response to Duncan Baker but is still not talking to the MP - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk council leader who is refusing to talk to his local MP has now responded to him - but only in an open letter.

Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), will not speak with Duncan Baker, the area's MP, following a row over a controversial contract awarded by the authority.

However, he has now written an open letter responding to some of the Conservative MP's concerns.

The quarrel began when Mr Baker wrote to the authority saying he was "alarmed" by the findings of an investigation into a contract given to a friend of a Liberal Democrat councillor.

NNDC awarded a £1,000 per day 2019 contact awarded to Peter Thomas Ltd, a consultant and friend of then senior councillor, Karen Ward.

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

Last month, a review by accounting firm Ernst and Young concluded two members of the council's involvement in the £30,000 contract was “inappropriate” with a significant risk of “non-compliance of internal policies”. 

Mr Baker wrote to Mr Adams, raising three questions:

  • If officers who were found to have 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 after a meeting went into a private session

Mr Adams addresses some of the concerns in the open letter.

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One key promise by Mr Adams was that all procurement exemption certificates - a document used by councils when it cannot follow normal contract procedures - will now be reported to the council's audit committee.

He also pointed out that the cost of the contract was found not to be unreasonable by Ernst and Young, the council was not in control of how long it took for the review to be done, and investigations by police and auditors found no corruption or illegal activity.

He said: "Despite intimations that something is being hidden, which I believe Duncan Baker MP knows not to be true, the only information not published is the identities of individuals."

The MP's question concerning whether officers who backdated documents were still at the council does not appear to have been answered by the council leader in his open letter.

He added: "As leader of NNDC, I certainly accept the findings of the external audit and the recommendations made.

"It is the case that the district council has already been working to address the shortcomings in the governance procedures for awarding contracts outside of the normal tender process, known as ‘exemption certificates’.

"The matters raised in Duncan Baker MP’s letter obviously occurred some considerable time ago now in the summer of 2019, but it is correct that we learn from them."

The Norfolk Norfolk MP said he has been waiting three weeks for a response from Mr Adams.

He said: "I want him to meet with me and work with me. The public and taxpayers of North Norfolk have a right to have answers to the issues raised and the serious failures.

"This report highlighted a police investigation, improper processes, inappropriate relationships and the backdating of a key document. All are serious issues at NNDC."

He accused Mr Adams of blocking him from discussing the matter, calling the lack of personal response "not democratic, open or transparent".

The dispute between the pair came to a head last week when Mr Adams said he would be halting contact with the MP until at least June.

Mr Adams said he stopped contact because of comments made on social media by someone he believes to be a "close associate" with the MP.

Mr Adams said on social media that the suspension of contact "was not a decision taken lightly by me at all".