Tuesday, 27 February 2018

'Free Lunches' to School Meals in Tameside

 IN last Wednesday's Guardian, the writer, Tamasin Cave in an article titled 'Find out if your councillor is being wined and dined' wrote:  'The timeless practice of "gastronomic pimping", as Nye Bevan puts it, is a tool long used by commercial lobbyists to curry favour.'   

'These "meetings" are,' she says 'deliberately designed to create bonds, establish shared values and ultimately influence [local] council decisions.'

One must wonder if the recently deceased Councillor Kieran Quinn, who as boss of Tameside Council and chair of Greater Manchester Pension Fund [GMPF], was aware of this when he cosied-up so close to to the outsourcing company Carillion over the last decade?

Afterall, Councillor Quinn, who died suddenly last Christmas, told Construction News only last September:
'One of my pleasures of acting as GMPF chairman is using workers’ money to invest in the city they work in, and [he promised] there will be plenty more investment to come'

Today, after the collapse of Carillion, that now sounds like throwing good money after bad.

Tameside Councillor Quinn last September boasted to the Construction News' journalist Charlie Schouten, that he was actively encouraging closer associations between 'London-based businesses..... [because] they like talking to people like us; they see an opportunity here,' and forming partnerships with people like him.

This was an eloquent appeal by Councillor Quinn for greater public embroilment with big business, yet remember dear reader, it was delivered just after Carillion had issued a profit warning in July 2017 Was Councillor Quinn trying to bailed-out the troubled company Carillion with public funds so as to cover up his own misplaced historic investment strategy?   Was he calling on the Town Council cavalry in Greater Manchester to rescue a company he realised was already on death row?

After all, he did say that 'If they [companies like Carillion] can come into partnership with us, it de-risks it for them.'

What did Tameside's Councillor Quinn mean by 'it de-risks it for them'?

In her article in last Wednesday's Guardian, Tamasin Cave, tellingly writes:
'One of the surest ways to access and influence the officials you seek to influence is to employ people who know local government inside out.  Councillors up and down the country are employed in the property lobbying business.  They are elected to represent the public interest and at the same time employed by developers seeking to influence the public sphere.'

In the case of Councillor Kieran Quinn and Tameside Council, it seems that Carillion didn't have have to do much lobbying with free lunches to gain influence.  Indeed, when it came to Councillor Quinn and his Council cronies, it seems they were not simply playing footsie under the table but were positively spreading their legs before the construction giant.

As I write this, there are I understand there have two Freedom of Information requests asking about a Tameside Council officer, who may or may not, have been made a director to Carillion. 

'What do developers want from their relationships [with Councillors]?', asks Ms. Cave.

Well in the case of the Carillion / Quinn liaison it amounted to contracts, partnerships and networking facilities.  But it could also in some cases, as Ms. Cave says, amount to help with 'straightforward planning permission; or relief from paying tax used to fund local amenities; or an agreement with the council on the amount of affordable homes the developer has, or doesn't have, to provide.  All of which can be negotiated by the councils upon which such lavish hospitality is poured.'

The one-time chairman of Westminster Council's planning committee Robert Davis was, according to Ms. Cave, 'entertained 150 times by property industry figures in three years'..

Meanwhile, it seems a firm called OCS https://www.ocs.com/uk/services/catering/hospital-and-healthcare-catering/  that was brought to deliver a school meals' contract at Tameside MBC after the departure of Carillion, has now pulled out.    

 There'll be no 'gastronomic pimping' in the school canteens in Tameside.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not only are Officers on the Tameside Council are involved in assisting businesses in a Directeral role, many Councillors are too.
How can impartial decisions be made when there is a clear interest for some, in such decision making?
Once again why is this allowed, when it is a clear case of conflict of interest.?
Look at New Charter, Ashton Pioneer Homes etc etc. All have some inhouse Tameside Council influence. This should not be allowed.
The Council will be giving land away to businesses soon, so they can build houses and line the pockets of the directors of the Charities, even more so. Or has this already happened?

On Tuesday's, (27/02/18) Tameside MBC Council meeting, there were many comdenmations of the Carrillions Role within Tameside Council. Many of the Councillors agreeing that they were glad to see the back of this group.
The main comdenmations came from the new leader of the Council, Brenda Warrington and Councillor Barry Holland. Both stated that this blacklisting company should have gone long ago. Councillor Holland stated that he had friends and colleagues who had suffered greatly as a result of its illegal actions.
No one there praised Councillors Bells comments, made well before this collapse occurred, when he stated that Tameside MBC should reconsider putting all their eggs in one basket, when tasking the Carillon group with such high brow contracts, from the Council.
This was met with derision. How prophetic that was?
Just how many of these public paid servants are social landlords too? Quite a few are multi property owners and letting their property, both within Tameside MBC area and further afield.
Many too are second home owners abroad, flaunting their wealth when many Tameside people are struggling to keep a home or a roof over their heads.
Yet despite this a 4.99% increase in Council tax was agreed by all except the Conservative group Councillors.
Talk about a free lunch!

The BlueKnight.