Consultancy fees revealed
Local groups excluded from project board
Minutes deleted from website ‘in error’
Traffic disruption caused by the first phase of the delayed CHORD works will finally be over this week, Argyll and Bute Council has said.
And although the first phase will still only be ‘substantially complete’, the authority insists that the controversial work is still within its £6.6m budget – despite the decision to employ a new official to work on this project alone.
The post of CHORD technical officer is currently being advertised by the council, for 12-18 months and with a salary of up to £38,615.
Applicants are invited to contact CHORD project manager Helen Ford, although Ms Ford is not a council employee.
Helen Ford Business Consultant Ltd received £66,174 from the council in 2012-13, and this week the council refused to answer a series of questions about Ms Ford’s role.
Originally due to be completed by mid-September, the work on West Clyde Street has continually slipped behind schedule, leaving traders furious about the effect on their businesses.
On November 5 the council issued two statements, the first saying that another two or three weeks would be needed, then a second just hours later, stating that the delay would be 7-10 days.
Today (Tuesday) a council spokesperson said: “The contractor will have substantially completed works on Phase 1a by November 21 with the return of two-way traffic on West Clyde Street operational by then.
“The lighting column fitments and power supply, completion of pends in Colquhoun Street South along with snagging/defects works will be undertaken early in the New Year.”
Margaret MacGillivray, who runs a gifts and coffee shop, said: “It’s going to be interesting watching the two-way traffic on West Clyde Street again although we have already seen several vehicles (including some large trucks!) ignoring the one-way traffic signs.
“We’re getting positive comments from visitors to the town about the look of the new pavements – although a lot of people are still disappointed that they can’t walk along the promenade yet.”
An open evening to discuss the work with people affected had been scheduled for this month, but this has now been delayed until early December.
Inquiries in recent weeks have revealed a series of issues surrounding the project:
The agenda and minutes for a project board meeting on February 9 2012 were not included on the council website, although the records of all other meetings did appear to available. The council has now said they were deleted in error, and have been reinstated here.
They include a phasing report which states work was due to start on February 27 2012 – only 18 days after the meeting – and be complete by February 15 this year.
The board’s meetings have been infrequent, and as revealed here, a total of ten months elapsed without the project board meeting, with one meeting abandoned as inquorate – now it has emerged that its membership was cut back last year.
The board previously included representatives from bodies such as Helensburgh Community Council and the chamber of commerce until the council re-formed with the SNP in control, following the May 2012 elections.
A spokesperson confirmed: “The council determined not to follow the previous arrangements of appointing external representatives. This was a decision of council.”
Of the new job, the council said: “The decision to make this appointment was taken as part of the September/October review of the CHORD programme. The cost will be covered by the CHORD programme office which is a resource covering all CHORD projects.”
Concerning Helen Ford’s role, the council was asked a series of questions but would only confirm she is not a council employee and released this statement: “We don’t comment on the detail of individuals’ situations.
“It’s important to get the right people for the right jobs. The role of project manager which Helen Ford holds is a council role indicated by the fact she has council contact details.”
The questions submitted to the council last week concerning Ms Ford are below:
- The Spotlight on Spend financial information for 2012-13 shows Helen Ford Business Consultant Ltd received £66,174; if this is the same Helen Ford, could you advise on the advisability of the project manager for such a high profile undertaking, which has encountered considerable problems, being a consultant, rather than a council employee?
- Does the £66,174 apply just to the Helensburgh project, or across Argyll and Bute?
- Was it paid on the basis of Helen Ford working full-time or part-time for the council?
- How much has been paid by the council to Helen Ford Business Consultant Ltd in previous years, and was this for the CHORD work alone? (I understand she was also paid at a daily rate as consultant for the Helensburgh Partnership in 2008-9)
- Has Helen Ford ever been a council employee? If so, could you say for what period and in what capacity?
- What tendering arrangements were used prior to the award of any contracts to Helen Ford Business Consultant Ltd?
© The Lochside Press