Fancy earning up to £18 per hour for cutting the grass on Long Preston’s several village greens?
£18 per hour – and no other takers?
That’s what Long Preston Parish Council has been paying its own chairman Nick Thwaite for the past several years. Yet there have been surprisingly few, if any, other tenders for the work. Odd indeed, especially at such a generous rate!
Even odder is the fact that the previous grass-cutting contractor – a local resident who for more than twenty years prior to Cllr Thwaite’s election as chairman efficiently tended the greens at a far lower cost – has not quoted for subsequent grass cutting contracts.
Interestingly, the October 2007 minutes of the Parish Council meeting contain a reference to an unspecified “difficult situation” with the former grass-cutting contractor. The minute also stated that the council would accordingly invite new tenders for the respective duties of grass-cutter and lengthsman.
But an examination of subsequent minutes over the ensuing period can find no reference to those duties being put out to competitive tender.
Understandably this caused some raised eyebrows within the village and a year or two later the contract was formally put up for tender, prompting seven sceptical villagers (who sniffed a rat) to each submit respective bids.
And although the minutes of the council’s November 2007 meeting record the re-appointment of chairman Thwaite to both jobs, there is no reference whatever to the seven other tenders submitted!
According to Alison Fawcett – the parish clerk at that time – the only criteria considered by the council when re-appointing its chairman to the grass-cutting and lengthsman duties, was that our elected representatives wanted “someone they knew and could work with.”
And chairman Thwaite, it transpired, was the sole applicant to fit that demanding description!
Strangest of all in this shifty saga is the dearth of tenders (zero, zilch, nix and none) from the many other local individuals and contractors who might reasonably have been expected to tender for this work.
Could this be dearth of applicants be attributed to the Parish Council’s carefully crafted non-advertising of its invitations to tender?
Such vacancies and contracts are normally advertised in the ‘Jobs & Careers’ section of the Craven Herald and other local newspapers – a platform certain to attract the attention of relevant interested parties.
Instead, the council’s publicity was confined to the Long Preston Parish magazine – which is unlikely to be read beyond our village boundaries. Plus (for those with exceptionally good eyesight) a minuscule mention in the free ‘Village Roundup’ section of the Craven Herald (see example beneath).
[Note: This is not the original page featuring the invitation to tender for the grass-cutting contract. But it accurately reflects the ludicrously inadequate size of the so-called 'advertisement' inviting tenders for grass-cutting.]
Few raised eyebrows, then, that chairman Thwaite was the sole applicant for this potentially lucrative contract!
When the contract and absence of competitive tenders was discussed at the Parish Council’s ensuing meeting, Cllr Thwaite himself took no part whatever in the decision-making process for this lucrative contract.
Instead,as is required by law, he rightly absented himself from discussion of the contract, quitting the meeting and leaving the decision in the safe hands of his unbiased vice chairman, Cllr Keith McBride and five dispassionate fellow councillors.
So what about this latest decision to put the grass-cutting contract out to tender in December?
The Long Preston electorate can be confident that in such closely scrutinised circumstances, chairman Thwaite’s council colleagues will ensure that the applicant deemed to provide best value to the taxpayers of Long Preston will triumph in the tender process.
So if you fancy undercutting chairman Thwaite’s lucrative rate of £18 per hour, why not have a go?
You won’t even have to provide your own equipment as our Parish Council generously provides the present incumbent (courtesy of village taxpayers) with a splendid £5,000 plus sit-upon motorised mower.
Interested? Then visit the council’s website where you’ll read that …
“The Council will shortly (December 2012) be tendering for a grounds maintenance contract. This will cover maintenance of all open spaces owned by the Council and grass cutting during the growing season. Interested parties should email the Clerk to be alerted when the tender is live. It is anticipated that the contract will begin early in the New Year, with grass cutting to be undertaken at the start of the 2013 growing season.”
As 17th century savant Baltasar Gracián y Morales put it: “A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”
Advice that Cllr Thwaite would be sensible to heed!
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