Take a bow councillors Sally Miller, John Tyler, Philippa Crowder and Michael Deon Burton. They made the Overview and Scrutiny system work.1 Interestingly they were present in the chamber unlike silent Zoom councillors.
Item 5 was an update on a £5 million CCTV capital programme. John Tyler, supported by the chair, Sally Miller, expressed his incredulity. They were outraged by incompetent decision-making, which authorised a £5 million expenditure, without detailed costs. This is ‘wish and a prayer’ procurement. The incompetent culprits are Councillors Viddy Persaud and Roger Ramsey who are, respectively, Public Safety and Finance cabinet members.
The principal officer struggled to defend this fiasco. Heroically she said the £5 million budget couldn’t be exceeded. She acknowledged a Chinese factory fire had created a world-wide shortage of microchips, but, no worries, other suppliers would fill the gap. This left the programme in tatters, as Tyler noted.
She thought that about 350 cameras were needed but it might fewer. The number was being driven by costs. Deon Burton said Havering needed mobile units to combat fly-tipping. He also asked about competitive tendering. This was an unintentional trick question because local authority CCTV is a quasi-monopoly. Consultant fees were questioned but the committee were hurried past as they are an unmentionable cost.
The chair is dubious about the £5 million. Perhaps Councillors Persaud and Ramsey could explain why they authorised a £5 million expenditure without any detailed costs to the committee?2 £5 million? Why not £4 million? Whether it’s value-for-money at all wasn’t asked.
1 For the webcast go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) This section begins at 20 minutes for about 20 minutes
2 No cabinet member has ever appeared before an Overview and Scrutiny committee to be questioned about their policy decision-making. So this would be a significant event.