At tonight’s meeting of Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet Mr Bluh complained at length about the ‘negativity’ of some commentators on the decision to spend almost £½M of Swindon taxpayers’ money of wifi. According to Mr Bluh and Mr Edwards it is ‘offensive’ for anyone to raise concerns about the process by which they made their decision to spend our money. On that basis, Messrs Bluh and Edwards clearly find at least two of their own cabinet colleagues offensive.
Mr Perkins said that if it was up to him, Digital City (UK) Ltd’s business case would have been published. It remains a secret, accessible to only a few and only under strict conditions. Mr Greenhalgh said he had ‘concerns about the legality’ of the earlier decision. It was notable that when Mr Bluh tried to say that the external auditor had investigated the process and had no concerns, the borough solicitor felt the need to intervene and correct that statement. Both Mr Bluh and Mr Hunt seem eager to move on and end the discussion about the legitimacy of the council’s funding of this project. Perhaps that’s because the questions are both persistent and difficult for them to answer.
Mr Bluh also seems to be trying to rewrite history. He now claims that the decision made by three council officers on the advice of just himself and Mr Edwards was ‘a cabinet decision’. Again, the borough solicitor felt the need to intervene and correct that statement. For any that might be inclined to believe Mr Bluh when he says this was a cabinet decision, here is a reminder of what was said by the council in response to a Freedom of Information request.
Decision Makers – these are the three authors of the briefing note.
Those authors were the Director of Finance (Mr McKellar), the Director of Law and Democratic Services (Mr Taylor) and the Group Director Business Transformation (Mr Patel). That is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a cabinet decision.
There are some other discrepancies. Mr Greenhalgh raised concerns about whether it was appropriate for Mr Patel to have been a director of Digital City (UK) Ltd and to have written the briefing note to Messrs Bluh and Edwards and to be one of those conducting a risk assessment the company’s plans. According to the borough solicitor, Mr Patel is just an observer on the company’s board, not formally appointed. That is not how it appears in the records of Companies House.
When his own cabinet colleauges have serious concerns, when a former council leader from his own party, Mr Bawden, was shaking his head through much of what Mr Bluh had to say, surely even the most arrogant and vain of council leaders would realise they had made a mistake? In the case of Mr Bluh it would seem not.
Update, 01:17, Sunday, 14 March 2010: Mr Patel’s directorship of Digital City (UK) Ltd has now been terminated, on Friday 12 March 2010.