Procuring powers once signed away is a win

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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And so begins Lancashire County Council’s (LCC) disentanglement from the clutches of commercial confidentiality.

One Connect Ltd (OCL, the public-private hook-up by which various civic functions – formerly administered solely by officers directly accountable to the community’s democratically elected representatives – might be shived off here or there, all overseen by a corporate titan legally entitled to not tell us everything it is up to, supposedly on our behalf), is over.

Sort of.

The disentanglement will, it turns out, be partial. In some areas the authority and its partner are too deeply intertwined to be fully (and affordably) cleft in twain.

Corporate investment has been made. Money speculated, in good faith, against future returns. You will be hearing from our lawyers.

Won’t come to that. They’d skin LCC alive. So an entirely new entity, a bastard son of OCL – BT Lancashire Services Ltd – will take over and see out contracts, more or less as agreed in 2010, covering IT, payroll, revenue and benefits.

But a step in the right direction, at least. And grabbing procurement alone back from this ‘partnership’ – with its rotating cast of well-paid suits, floating endlessly twixt here and Liverpool Council’s convoluted BT tie-up – is cause for celebration.

If nothing else, at least next time it is decided to put council business previously awarded to local small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), out to tender on a Government-run bidding network, on which not a single local firm is registered, due largely to prohibitive financial bond requirements, the LEP will find out about it far sooner – and then so will you.

Ideally, before any such moronic robbing of Peter to pay Paul can be perpetrated against the public purse! You know, like the £800k of LCC print contracts spirited away from our frail economy – from local firms, one who had worked for LCC more than 70 years – and handed to corporate giants in the booming South East.

In the name of saving £100,000. Might as well have shovelled brass into the hold of a London-bound jet. Bye cash! Bye! Have a nice time in the tills and wallets of those already enjoying the fruits of growth!

Naturally, no apt consequences await the useful idiots who guided this plunder of the common weald. Indeed, it is likely they will prosper. But a little less at our direct expense.