‘Council boss in NCP gag apology’ screamed your front page headline. At last, I thought, Paul Yallop, the Tory leader of Worthing Council, is having the decency to apologise to us, the Worthing council tax payers, for handing over £800,000 of our money to NCP.
But no … it was the council’s chief executive apologising to the councillors for the “very difficult position” he put them in over the gagging order.
As if that’s the main issue!
Let me spell out what the main issue is.
We – the 50,000 or so council tax paying households in Worthing – have been forced to pay out around £16 each to NCP with no proper explanation and no-one taking full responsibility for the whole sorry debacle.
What do we elect councillors for if they’re not going to ensure that the council’s officers are doing a good job and not wasting our money?
And it’s councillors of both sides who got us into this sorry mess. The Lib Dems brought in NCP on a 10-year contract because the car parks needed repairs costing £4million.
Who let car parks get in that state? And how did they think NCP was going to finance the repairs other than by fleecing through exorbitant parking charges?
Then, when the Tories returned to leading the council, they realised the charges were putting off motorists and came up with the stunning wheeze of lowering the NCP charges and agreeing to pay up to £152,000 a year of our money to NCP as ‘compensation for their losses.’
And they rushed it through just before Christmas 2009 so, somewhere along the line, someone didn’t check whether the deal was for one year or for the rest of the contract.
The chief executive has said that nothing criminal has gone on. Are we just to take his word for that?
At the very least, there has been a neglect of duty and responsibility on the part of all the councillors involved – and possibly others.
I’m not usually one for inquiries because they tend to push issues into the long grass, but it seems to me this case is so serious and involves such a large sum of money, it demands a proper inquiry going back over the whole 10 years of the contract.
We in the Worthing Labour Party will be presenting a demand to the council’s next meeting that the matter is referred to the Department of Communities and local Government for a full inquiry.
Worthing council tax payers deserve to know what’s been going on.
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