How Argyll & Bute Works: ADP update

My first post on the ADP can be found here. This is an update.

Cllrs Armour, MacDonald, MacLean, Strong, Blair and myself were unhappy with the response we got from officers for the following reasons:

  1. We were denied access to the internal review the council carried out on the tender process. Officers turned our request into an FOI then refused it. However, we obtained this internal review from another source instead.
  2. We were denied access to the legal advice the council sought externally on the tender process. Officers turned our request into an FOI then refused it. It is fair to say that legal advice should not be public but we firmly believe the advice should be available to us as councillors on a confidential basis. We have asked officers to reconsider.
  3. We still see major differences between what was tendered for and what we now have in place. Until we see what was asked of our external legal advisors and what their response was, we are in the dark. It is hard to come to any kind of conclusion without all the facts but we may have to come to make some assumptions if we cannot obtain the facts.
  4. In the document at the link below, there is a table that compares the tender specification to a letter from Addaction to a 3rd sector member of staff by way of justifying not employing that person. The differences between what Addaction seem to think they are delivering compared to the tender specification are startling. The table is reproduced below if you don’t have the time to read the full document. We have now seen other, similar, letters using much the same reasons for not taking on the employees who did this work until the end of December 2014.
  5. Most of the staff from the former 3rd sector providers have not been re-employed by the new contractor. The exception is  Dunoon  This is directly related to points 3 & 4 above because the service specification appears to be materially different from what was tendered. Again, we think we have to see the legal advice before coming to a conclusion.
  6. Questions are increasingly being asked about the suitability of the new service, mostly from areas of Argyll other than Dunoon. In Dunoon, the new contractor took over the old contractor called Kaleidoscope and re-employed almost all their staff. This takeover was agreed to by the charity regulator, OSCR. http://www.oscr.org.uk/
  7. Lastly, there appears to have been no internal approval before the council tendered this large contract, worth about £1.5m over 3 years. You would think a contract of this size, and one that was bound to be problematic, would have been approved by councillors before the tender was issued but that doesn’t seem to have happened. Why? While the council is a partner in the ADP, the funding from the Scottish Government that covers it flows via the NHS so why did they not tender it? Your council is now exposed to risk over a tender and contract it did not need to handle and for which there was no democratic approval given, as far as we can ascertain.

Even if I had no questions at all about the tender, there are other aspects of what has happened here that are impact negatively on the Argyll & Bute economy. When a large national organisation wins this kind of contract, some of the contract value is syphoned out of the local economy to contribute to the overheads of the organisation and to its profits. Worse, there is a loss of skilled jobs in the local area because the management and administration of the contract will most likely be carried out  by people employed somewhere other than Argyll & Bute.

My last point relates to what has happened in Dunoon. The former staff of the local drugs and alcohol organisation, Kaleidoscope, have mostly been taken on by Addaction. So far, so good but what has also happened is that when Addaction took over Kaleidoscope, they took on Kaleidospcope’s assets and liabilities. One of those assets is Dunoon’s oldest building, Ballochyle House. Before the takeover, I tried to persuade Kaleidoscope’s chair that this was a dangerous and unnecessary move and asked if, instead, they would transfer Ballochyle House to another locally based charity for the sole purpose of using the building for addiction work. This would still have allowed Addaction to use the property and any successor contractor. If Addaction lose this contract for any reason, they will still own this asset and there may be no premises readily available for addictions work. This is a shameful position to be in.

I remain deeply uncomfortable about this whole process and we will continue to ask questions of officers in order to ensure that the public interest is served. Right now, it doesn’t pass that public interest test.

Table comparing Addaction letter to the tender specification

ADP comparison table

Questions asked by councillors, plus reply, plus further questions as of 3 August 2015. This is worth reading to understand the extent of our concerns. As of today, 9 August, we have not had a response.

questions re ADP as of 3 August