Stoke pay over £50k after turning down freebie

The Audit Commission may well have promoted Stoke-on-Trent City Council from the very bottom of the council class, but it seems they may well be back to their old tricks...


The Sentinel reported this week that the council spent at least £50,000 of taxpayers’ money demolishing a school when a local firm had offered to do it for free!


Why would they do this? Well it’s mainly down to the nonsense regulation that restricts the council to using particular companies for particular jobs. Unfortunately, 'Potteries Demolition Ltd' were not on the list of companies invited to submit quotations for the work, and as a result the ordinary, hard-working taxpayer has lost out again.


The Authority has said that it is not allowed to depart from ‘official tendering procedures’ which is no doubt true, even when ‘official procedures’ fly in the face of common sense and value for money.


Here’s yet another instance of regulation leaving absolutely no room for manoeuvre, being applied regardless of circumstance and in this case, wholly inappropriately.


Demolish MD of Potteries Demolition, Steve Edwards, explained just why the council turned down this generous offer on behalf of the taxpayer:


"The council says we can only tender for jobs up to £50,000, and they do that to other local companies as well. So if their surveyor estimates the job is worth £100,000, for example - which is only his opinion - we don't even get offered the work.


"In this case the quantity surveyor came in and said, 'it's a shame you won't be getting the Clarice Cliff job'. I said, 'you're joking - it will be embarrassing having another company outside our gates doing it.'


"He said the job would be worth more than £100,000, which I don't think it would have been."


He added: "We offered to do it free of charge as a gesture of goodwill, but they turned us down.


"They must have paid more than £50,000 because otherwise we should have been offered the tender. How can you give that amount of money away in this city? I'm complaining as a taxpayer as much as anything else."


The Authority’s response was to reaffirm a dedication to this “official procedure”. It also gravely warned about how, in accepting such freebies, the council would be setting a “dangerous precedent”, although we get no real explanation of these particular dangers. Something to do with accepting such offers “invariably costing the council something in the event of problems” – eh? But it’s costing money anyway! Over £50,000 according to Mr. Edwards.


And so the council feebly struggle to make their riddling logic sound reasonable, whilst the coffers – once full of our hard-earned cash – become a little lighter. The only ‘dangerous precedent’ Stoke City Council are setting is one for spending over the next twelve months, but it seems that the people of Stoke are in no danger of getting better value for money!


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