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A councillor says taxpayers can’t be confident they have got value for money after Burntwood Town Council opted not to seek quotes when renewing a legal service because of the coronavirus crisis.
The council debated the renewal of a subscription which offers them legal advice on employment matters.
The rules would usually require three different quotes to be obtained before a decision is made.
But a report to a meeting of the council yesterday (25th June) said this requirement could be waived in the current climate:
“The regulations do allow the council to waive the requirement to seek three quotations in appropriate circumstances.
“The current operational restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 lockdown will make it very difficult to identify and assess other potential companies that can supply the advice to the level that is required.
“It is not a service where the council can afford to take risks.”Report to Burntwood Town Council
A vote last night saw the Labour-controlled council back plans to waive the requirement as per the report.
It means the current £1,020 subscription with Keely’s Solicitors will continue.
But Cllr Wai-Lee Ho, deputy leader of the opposition Conservative group, said the council should have ensured it was getting the best deal for the service on offer.
“I’m the kind of person that when a contract is coming to an end for energy, insurance, broadband etc, I will shop around for a better quote even if I think my renewal price is good.
“That way, I have peace of mind that I am getting the most competitive quote and not paying more than I need to.
“This is the argument I put to the council. I also told them that it would be remiss of us to forgo our duty of due diligence by not shopping around for a better quote.
“However, the Labour group unanimously voted in favour of renewing the contract without seeking any other quotes, while the Conservative group did not support this.
“The town council has done the taxpayer a great dis-service – they have failed ensure that our residents are getting value for money by not taking my advice of seeking a couple more quotes to make sure we are getting the most competitive one.”Cllr Wai-Lee Ho
Cllr Ho said the arguments around not being able to obtain quotes during the coronavirus crisis did not stack up.
“Solicitors are key workers, so they have been operating since the start of lockdown and meeting with them to obtain a mandatory ‘wet signature’ has been permitted while still adhering to social distancing rules.
“You do not have to physically meet a solicitor to obtain a quote.
“Thanks to the marvels of modern-day technology, you can request a quote via e-mail, telephone call or even video call.
“I was extremely disappointed that Burntwood Town Council voted to waive the requirement to seek three quotations when considering renewal of its subscription for employment advice.
“Regulations do allow us to do this but only in appropriate circumstances, which I do not believe COVID-19 is.”Cllr Wai-Lee Ho