Councillors accuse Midlothian officers of handing £22 million primary school deal to Edinburgh 'cartel'

Published date30 June 2022
Publication titleEdinburghLive (Scotland)
Midlothian Council's elected members reacted with anger after they were asked to approve a decision by officers to bring in Hub South East (HubSE) Scotland to redesign the new Easthouses Primary School and appoint a preferred contractor against the "express will" of councillors

Councillor Derek Milligan, who led the previous Labour administration, said elected members had made it clear they did not want to use HubSE, which it was claimed only allowed a pool of preferred firms to bid for contracts.

He said councillors wanted to use a "more traditional" route to ensure all companies could bid for projects.

He described the decision as "baffling."

Mr Milligan said: "I thought we agreed as a council to continue with traditional methods and not lock this up because I have some real concerns about how Hub South East kind of work.

"I was under the impression the council had agreed through several discussions to allow normal tendering to allow all companies to bid for this rather than a cartel."

HubSE decribes itself as a public private partnership , which is 40 per cent owned by the public sector.

The council's head of development Fiona Clandillon said that because of the 'resource constraints' in her own team it was decided to use the hub route, which other local authorities have used.

She said the council retained oversight of the project with HubSE running the day to day operations of it.

However Mr Milligan said he was unaware of any approach by officials consulting councillors about using HubSE.

He was backed by Conservative councillor Peter Smaill who said he had attended a meeting with the council's chief executive when he had been given the impression councillors would be consulted before the hub was used.

He said: "This (HubSE) was a device created more than 20 years ago taking a number of contractors, a cartel as Councillor Milligan calls it, who were experienced in procurement particularly in schools but it was not exactly full blooded competition so the question for me is how do we reassure ourselves we have had competitive pressure here?"

SNP councillor Colin Cassidy added: "I also attended the meeting and expressed my concerns about this cartel sweeping up contracts.

And Councillor Russell Imrie, the local authority's planning convenor, said officials had overstepped their role.

He said: "There is no governance whatsoever on this.

"Elected members at...

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