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Technical experts excluded from illegal contracts inquiry

News

SCARBOROUGH BOROUGH Council last week rejected calls for legal and technical experts to sit on the internal working party investigating the unlawful award of consultancy contracts in Scarborough.

Local MP and civil engineer Lawrie Quinn criticised the council for appointing a working party of councillors with no experience of major infrastructure projects.

But the council defended its decision. 'Technical and legal advice can be pulled in if it is needed, ' said a council spokeswoman.

The council has set up its own investigation into the contract awards after an Audit Commission report revealed that £4.2M of consultancy contracts were awarded unlawfully to HighPoint Rendel between 1997 and 2000 (NCE 16/30 December 2004).

Local taxpayers are calling for an independent investigation into the matter. One, retired detective constable Stanley Dickinson, has written to North Yorkshire Police demanding a criminal investigation is carried out.

He also called for the immediate suspension of those involved.

Referring to the Audit Commission report he said: 'False documents were prepared to cover the council's failure to tender projects. We need to know why and how this happened'.

'The council has not disciplined those responsible. There are clearly members of the council who have been economical with the truth, ' he said.

'Those involved should be suspended and it is very strange that they have not been, ' he continued.

One of the projects let unlawfully was the controversial coastal defence scheme designed to protect the Scarborough headland.

Funding came from the Department for Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) but this could be withdrawn, depending on the findings of the working party.

'We will wait for the council's report before we consider and make comment on the legal position and whether it is lawful for payments to be made, ' said a DEFRA spokesman.

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