In our previous post – Not f**king fit for purpose… – 21.01.22 – we commented on the seeming inability of Thurrock Council to properly supervise their contractors, with the consequences being delays to the completion of projects and money being wasted. We’ve been documenting failures from Thurrock Council for longer than we care to remember and had reached a point where we thought that no other local authority could top what we’ve seen.
Wrong! It’s been brought to our attention that Essex County Council are up there in the ‘couldn’t supervise a contractor to save their lives’ stakes: Basildon: Failed waste facility leaves council with hefty legal bill – 20.01.22. In 2012, Essex County Council signed a 25 year contract costing £800 million with UBB Waste Essex (formed by Urbaser and Balfour Beatty) for a 417,000 tonne capacity waste processing plant in Basildon. The aim for the plant was to eliminate the need for landfill waste disposal. The plant never worked properly. In 2017, the county council started legal proceedings against UBB who went into administration shortly afterwards. After this, the delivery of 270,000 tonnes of waste a year to the plant was suspended. The ongoing legal action, as you can read in the above news item, is starting to cost the county council dearly.
If you’re spending £800 million of taxpayers money on what on paper was a laudable project, surely you would have processes in place to ensure that it was being designed and built in a way that would deliver all that was promised for it? You wouldn’t just let the contractor get on with it until the facility is up and (only sort of) running before finding out it doesn’t work properly, would you? Yes, in an ideal world, you should be able to trust a contractor but we live in a far from ideal world, mistakes happen and things go wrong. So, why in the name of f**k did Essex County Council not have the requisite processes in place to ensure that £800 million of taxpayers money wasn’t flushed down the metaphorical s**tter?
The more we look at what goes on in local authorities, the more our brains hurt trying to comprehend what the thought processes are that lead to these screw ups and failures. There’s something seriously wrong in the culture of not just local authorities, but also the contractors they engage. A lack of joined up, coherent thinking is one of them. Another is any sense of responsibility for the money they spend and waste on failed and delayed projects. There are other factors which at some point, would best be examined in depth on our sister blog, The Stirrer. What we can say is that f**k ups like this are totally unacceptable. Yet again, it’s more evidence of a system of local governance that’s simply not fit for purpose.