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Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Friday, 28 May 2010 17:09 UK

Harborough District Council accused of contract blunder

By Allister Craddock
Politics show, BBC East Midlands

Nigel Brotherton
Mr. Brotherton has asked the Audit Commission to investigate

An East Midlands Council has been accused of giving the go-ahead for a major waste project without a proper contract or planning permission.

The former assistant chief executive of Harborough District Council, Nigel Brotherton, claims officers have a lot of explaining to do.

Mr. Brotherton, who left the council before the contract was awarded, told the Politics Show: "I view this as a very serious matter."

Refuse and recycling

Harborough Council awarded the £26m contract for refuse collections and recycling to Focsa Services in November, 2008.

Mr. Brotherton alleges the contract was allowed to run without a proper bank bond for 11 months.

Harborough Council declined to be interviewed.

Former waste site
Focsa operated in Theddingworth without planning permission

But in a statement, they said the Focsa contract worked initially from a letter of intent, which is not unusual.

Mr. Brotherton insists that during that period the council laid itself open to "huge financial risk" should there have been a major problem with the contract.

Focsa initially used a site in Theddingworth for garden waste and waste recycling. It operated there without planning permission and was ordered to quit the site after a series of fires when compost caught fire.

It then moved to Great Bowden. But Leicestershire County Council has since refused planning permission.

Residents are concerned that the company is still operating at the location.

Planning permission

Focsa told the Politics Show they were disappointed not to receive planning permission for the Great Bowden site, and that they will appeal against the decision.

They added: "Focsa is committed to ensuring that the collection, recycling, street cleaning and grounds maintenance services are delivered to the usual high standard to the people of Harborough."

The council says it is up to Focsa to decide what to do next.

"As Focsa had applied for planning permission, it is not in the public interest to pursue enforcement action until the outcome of the planning process."

Meanwhile, Lib Dem councillor, Phil Knowles, is angry that the council failed to attend a recent public meeting at Great Bowden to explain their side of the story.

He'll be telling our presenter, Marie Ashby, how he'll be pressing for answers at a meeting of the council's scrutiny committee next week.

Mr. Brotherton has asked the Audit Commission to investigate the council's handling of events.

See the full story and an interview with Cllr Knowles on the Politics Show.

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