A shameful failure of scrutiny

A deal has been done between Mr Bluh and Mr Montaut, apparently in an attempt to suppress further scrutiny of Swindon Borough Council’s dealings with Digital City (UK) Ltd.

I have reached an agreement with the Labour Group Leader that as and when the wi-fi project, which is fully supported by both the Conservative and Labour Groups, has been finally cleared by the Scrutiny and Audit Committees then in the interests of allowing the wi-fi project to move forward without further damaging publicity, without incurring additional costs to the taxpayer and to stop the enormous amount of officer time being spent on this issue to date, I will ask the external auditor to confirm the findings of the internal audit report and also to confirm that due process has been followed throughout. It is time to allow this fantastic, innovative opportunity to get properly underway to deliver for Swindon.

There’s nothing fantastic about squandering local taxpayers’ money, Mr Bluh; nor in being so careless in the deal that much of what councillors and council officers have said on the matter has turned out to be untrue; nor in investing in a project so laxly run that even though it was eight months behind schedule and had to ask for its loan conditions to be relaxed, the company board had not met. And just how arrogant it is of Mr Bluh to think the District Auditor needs his permission to investigate. As I noted a couple of days ago, the District Auditor has already been asked to investigate the wifi deal.

What has this acheived for Mr Montaut? Nothing, just an external enquiry that would have happened anyway.

I have been calling for an external enquiry for months now, because this council needs to focus on the things that matter to all Swindoners, like getting value for money for our council tax payers and ensuring that our public services are working to suit the needs of our townspeople. With the external auditors now investigating the Conservative administration’s wi-fi deal, I believe the council can do this.

That sounds to me like Mr Montaut, the chair of the Swindon Borough Council’s Scrutiny Committee, wants to abandon scrutiny of this deal.

The role of the chair of a council’s scrutiny committee is to hold the council administration to account. To shirk that responsibility through worthless back-room deals like this is a shameful failure.