Friday, February 02, 2007

Lets all play runaround

Today I have had the most extraordinary headache.Trying to get answers to questions from people in authority without them contradicting themselves,going back on things that they have already said,or stating what someone else has said is not the case, is just an impossibility!
I phoned NEPO this morning. NEPO is the North Eastern Purchasing Organisation. I learned from them today that they are an organisation, set up in 1976, to set up contracts between local authorities in the North East region and companies and businesses which already have contracts with NEPO, to supply different things. Infact everything from food to paper clips. Doing things through NEPO is supposed to save money and there are 12 full, and 13 associate members.In effect every council in the North East.
Today,my first phone call was to Deborah Mcnulty at NEPO. I started by asking her about the Redcar and Cleveland contract register that I had before me. I asked about the figure of £15,000 it showed to be spent on protective clothing."Is that the money being spent by RCBC? I asked or is it the total amount for all of the NEPO members?
"Its the amount spent by Redcar and Cleveland borough council she said,thats their contribution". "OK I said,well,lets have a look at this figure of £920,000 spent on soft drinks,is that RCBC's contribution or is that the total regional spend?" "Yes she said,thats Redcar councils contribution too". Then she said "hang on! No Im misleading you there,no the sum of £15,000 is for the whole of the North East region and so is the sum of £920,000".
"well could you tell me what Redcar councils contribution is I asked?" "No Im affraid I cant that would be something that you'd have to ask them" she said.
"But I dont understand how,if what youre now saying is true and the figures on Redcar councils contract register are for the whole North East region,how all these councils combined have only spent £15,000 on protective clothing?" I went on, "Middlesbrough councils contract register shows that their spending on business travel is £626,000. On Redcar councils register it shows business travel at £1,600,000. Middlesbrough are part of NEPO, so if what youre saying is correct, and Redcar councils register shows the total regional figure,then that means that Middlesbrough are responsible for over a third of all spending on business travel in the North East region? How can that be?" How can it be I asked, that both are members of NEPO but both are showing different figures?".

At this point she asked who I was and why I wanted these figures.I told her that I was a concerned resident of Redcar and Cleveland who resented the thought of his money being wasted to such degrees on non essentials. She told me to hold on while she put me through to her boss, Andrea Tickner. After a short while Mrs Tickner came onto the phone and was very pleasant. She also sid that the figure of £15,000 for protective clothing on the Redcar council contract register, was for the whole North Eastern region. She said "However,you cant divide that equally by the number of authorities who are members of NEPO, each authority will have a different spend on each contract, so for instance Redcar councils contribution to that figure of £15,000 might only be £50.00 whilst a bigger authority like Durham might be £3,500"!
"But how about the business travel figure I asked ?" "On our councils register its down as being £1,600,000. On Middlesbrough councils register the figure for business travel is £626,000. If what you are saying is correct that the figure on our councils register is for the whole of the N.E, then that means that Middlesbrough council are responsible for over a third of all the business travel spending for all the councils in the North East! These figures dont add up I said,they contradict each other massively" To which she replied,"YES I KNOW WHAT YOURE SAYING".

She sounded embarrassed about having to admit that the figures contradicted each other and then quickly suggested that she gave me the numbers of two people in Redcar council and Middlesbrough council to speak to,Ian Featherstone at MBC and Allison Aguis at RCBC.
I phoned Middlesbrough first and spoke to a very helpful man called Steven Snaith as Mr Featherstone was out. I told Mr Snaith about the information that I was trying to find and asked him about the MBC contract register I had in front of me."The figures for business travel on your contract register show that youve spent £626,000 on that,are they your figures I asked, or are they the figure for the whole of the N.E region?" "Yeah he said they're our figures, we only put our figures on there". "Well thats odd I replied,because the contract register for RCBC shows business travel spending is £1,600,000 and NEPO have stated that that figure is the total regional Value, so that means that you spending £626,000 on business travel would mean that you are responsible for over a third of business travel spending for the whole of the North East!". He sounded amazed, "That wouldnt be right" he replied. "Well,could you tell me what youre spending on soft drinks is ?" I asked. Whilst he was looking on his computer for the figures I asked him about the protective clothing spends being £15,000 for the whole of the N.E region according to the lady at NEPO. "Oh no way he said,we spend more than that ourselves!".

He eventually said that he couldnt find the information that I wanted so he would phone me back when he had found it.So I phoned RCBC to speak to Allison Aguis who was also out. I spoke to another girl in that department called Vicky. She told me that the contract values on the Contract register were regional values. I asked her what Redcar councils contribution was then to the £920,000 for soft drinks and the figure of £15,000 for protective clothing? She told me that she couldnt find the figures for the councils spending towards the figure of £920,000 spent on soft drinks because they were UPDATING THE CONTRACTS REGISTER. How convenient is that? And that they didnt use the contract for protective clothing ? I said "but you have it down here on your register,here look NEPO protective clothing £15,000" She said "not all contracts are used but we put them on the register" "why's that" I asked? "because theyre available to use" she replied "we have a seperate contract to provide protective clothing with Greenhams,this isnt a NEPO contract" She found it on her copmputer then said "here we are Greenhams,safety footwear and goggles,(short pause) oh Ive got that wrong,IT IS a NEPO contract".
She had made out to me that not only was the £15,000 contract for protective clothing nothing to do with the council,that they didnt use it but had the option to, but they had a seperate contract with a company called Greenhams to provide safety footwear and goggles which was actually also a NEPO contract too.The thing is that the contract for safety goggles and footwear is a totally different contract to the contract for protective clothing.

Finally,I phoned Steven Snaith back at Middlesbrough council and actually got to speak to Ian Featherstone,who was once again very helpful.I told him briefly about the things I had been told.I told him that according to Redcar council and NEPO the figures on RCBC's contract register showed the figures for the whole North East region.If thats the case I told him,then Middlesbrough council are responsible for a third of all the North East regions business travel spending which is unbelievable. "Exactly,totally unbelievable" he replied.

What is going on? I recieved the copy of the councils contract register and email from Colin Moore a few days ago and posted it on this site.Obviously, it has rattled a lot of cages. Why is it that two members of NEPO adopt different strategies? Why does MBC's contract register show only MBC's spending, whilst RCBC's contract register supposedly shows the spending for the whole North East? Why was it that the woman from NEPO at first confirmed that the figures shown on RCBC's contract register did show RCBC's spending, then suddenly go back on what she had said and state they werent? Why was her boss lost for an answer when given the differing,contradicting figures from MBC's register and RCBC's register? How could the girl at RCBC expect me to believe that they didnt use the NEPO contract for protective clothing when the people at NEPO has already confirmed that they did?

What is the whole point of all of this? Simple. I beleive that those contract figures on RCBC's contract register show our councils spending just the same as Middlesbroughs contract register shows theirs.Why should two members of the same organisation be so different? If what I am trying to show is correct,then this council are wasting our money in a flagrant and disgusting manner.If what looks obvious is correct, then the councils propaganda that we have to have 359 houses built on our coastline and open space to have leisure facilities,is as farcical as it is disgusting.If these amounts of money are theirs and not the entire regions as they are making out,then WE DO HAVE THE MONEY TO PROVIDE LEISURE FACILITIES IN OUR TOWN, OUR COUNCIL JUST HAS TO GET ITS PRIORITIES RIGHT THATS ALL!
Could I just point out that the Chief Exec of Gateshead council is the chairman of NEPO (wonder how many times he's had conversations withour chief exec?) bearing in mind that the vice chairman of NEPO until july 2007 is none other than our very own Redcar and Cleveland cabinet darling... Cllr Glynn Nightingale. look for yourselves at

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