No public inquiry into Cowes Enterprise College

By Emily Pearce

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

 

CALLS for a public inquiry into the multimillion-pound Cowes Enterprise College fiasco have again been rejected by the Isle of Wight Council.

Around 140 people attended a public meeting at the college last night (Monday), following the news the £32 million flagship building needed up to £9 million of repairs, but councillors said it was time to draw a line under the saga and move on.

Most of those invited to the meeting to shed light on the debacle — including former council leader and chief executive David Pugh and Steve Beynon, former officers Janet Newton and John Brocklehurst and former director Stuart Love, who took over the project following their suspensions — did not attend.

The council's managing director Dave Burbage, who led the investigation into Ms Newton and Mr Brocklehurst and made the decision to exonerate them, also failed to attend. He cancelled at the last minute, saying there was nothing he could add.

Ruling out a costly public inquiry and urging people to 'move on,' Cllr Priest said he had no intention to 'name and shame' people.

He said: "This is a legacy from people who have not had the courage to come and answer questions. It's their dream of a school for 1,400 students who aren't here. The people who made those promises should be accountable."

But Isle of Wight Council scrutiny chairman Cllr Geoff Lumley said Islanders deserved to know the truth. He had been made aware of email correspondence between Mr Pugh and senior officers involved in the project — e-mails Mr Pugh had offered to present to the meeting, but had been prevented from doing so by the Isle of Wight Council's monitoring officer.

If the e-mails could shed any light on the problems that had beset the project, they should be made public, said Cllr Lumley, calling on the Independent administration to honour its election pledges of openness and transparency.

But executive member for children's services and education Cllr Richard Priest said: "The officers were suspended in 2012. If any individual felt something should have been published, it should have been published then. To walk away and expect other people to deal with it is not right.

"We don't know why those individuals were suspended, they have been massively unfairly treated."

Ms Newton, who had submitted a short statement, read by Unison branch secretary Mark Chiverton, said she was keen for information to be published.

"I'm very happy to attend a public inquiry, chaired by an independent and qualified person, on the basis there is full disclosure of all the information. I would be happy to give evidence about the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved in the procurement and delivery of the project," she said.

In response to a letter written by Mr Pugh and published in the County Press, in which he said Ms Newton had reassured him the project was progressing to schedule, Ms Newton said Mr Pugh had 'cherry picked' information to 'suit his own ends'.

For more on this story, please see the Isle of Wight County Press on Friday, May 2.

Reporter: emilyp@iwcpmail.co.uk

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