Former chiefs 'should be quizzed on school fiasco'

By Emily Pearce

Monday, April 7, 2014

 

UPDATED 16.30*

CALLS have been made for former Isle of Wight Council bosses David Pugh and Steve Beynon to answer questions about the Cowes Enterprise College fiasco.

At last Thursday's meeting of the council's scrutiny committee, members said the former leader and chief executive — who were in charge when the £32m project was hit by repeated delays and criticism over poor contract management and shoddy construction work — should be invited to a future meeting and quizzed about the debacle.

Cllr Bob Blezzard said: "The people who were ultimately responsible at political and director level, David Pugh and Steve Beynon, should be invited back. We can't compel them but we should ask them."

However, Mr Pugh told the County Press he had no intention of attending any meetings.

Executive member for education and children's services Cllr Richard Priest said Mr Pugh and Mr Beynon would also be welcome to attend a public meeting to discuss the ongoing problems with the building.

"I recognise there may be a need for scrutiny of those individuals and what happened. People need to be held to account for the promises they made, and I'm sure they would want to justify their actions," he said.

Referring to the suspension of officers Janet Newton and John Brocklehurst, both of whom were cleared of any wrongdoing regarding the project and paid an undisclosed settlement, Mr Pugh said: "I stopped being publicly accountable when I ceased to hold public office.

"It is for the Independent leadership of the council to explain on what grounds they exonerated the two senior officers, on whose watch this major project was not delivered on time, on budget or fit-for-purpose, leaving this legacy of problems.

"Given these officers were in receipt of undisclosed sums of public money when they were cleared, I am surprised the Independent administration did not require them to be publicly accountable for explaining what went wrong."

As reported in the County Press, a further £357,000 of taxpayers' cash looks set to be spent on the building, to repair some building defects and carry out further investigation works.

A further report, detailing the extent and cost of the work still required to bring the building up to scratch, is due to go before the executive next month. The council has admitted it may have to borrow money or sell buildings to foot the final repair bill.

Scrutiny committee member Cllr Ian Ward said he could not believe the contract had been signed, seemingly without any warranty or insurance provisions, while chairman Cllr Geoff Lumley said the project was 'a disaster'.

"It's more and more public money going down the swanny," he said.

* Mr Beynon contacted the County Press this afternoon to confim he would not attend a public meeting.

He said: "I do not intend to attend as I do not have all the relevant information and as no longer an employee of the IW Council have no entitlement to it."

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