Cllr Wai-Lee Ho

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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

“Extremely disappointed”

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

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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8 Comments

  1. The argument was around twenty quid ie over the £1000 limit for it to roll forward under delegated powers and, hence, the reason for the report to Council. Cllr Ho clearly didn’t listen to the reasons given and the fact that, in the current Covid19 context, the costs of interviewing potential contractors, staff time etc would far exceed £20. Penny wise, pound foolish.

  2. I understand the desire to ensure you get the best quote, but given what already appears to be a low price for a good service, what’s the most that could possibly be “saved” by such an exercise? £50? £100? Is it worth the hassle at this difficult and busy time? Revisit it next year when everything will be a little bit easier.
    `

  3. Even at the domestic level contract renewal is a nightmare. Renewal figures are never less than your previous cover, unless you shop around. Even if you never make a claim on insurance the premiums inextricably increase. Other services like, water, gas, phone, internet, pet, electricity and others, all move steadily upwards. I haven’t mentioned car insurance as this is a special nightmare. My car insurance had a caviat this year, “You have not made any claims but you may get a better deal if you shop around.” I simply do not understand the business sense of that.
    With regards the council quotes, if there is a flexibility that encompasses a degree of change then that is acceptable. If any new quotes exceed the upper range of that flexibility then the company should be invited to re-quote or it should be put out to tender. You just can’t have a flexibility on a flexibility so Cllr. Wai-Le-Ho is right in his assessment.
    It is a feature of our service industry that the customer is seen as an easy touch.

  4. I went to Kiel (Germany) on a trade mission once ML. We had a guided walk of the town but were carefully skirted around certain streets. Out of curiosity we returned to the streets later. The graphity on the walls would make a dockers blush! Makes me smile even now.

  5. This is politics people.
    No practical solutions, just nitpicking what the other side has or hasn’t done.

    This is what most of the time is taken up with. Nay saying. Grammatical traps on social media.

    Shamefully schoolyard.

    No one has the confidence to make the right decisions. So it’s all left ambiguous and open for discussion, allowing blame to be shifted.

    And that’s their main aim… Dodging blame.

  6. I can assure Cllr Woodward that I was listening. My views on why I believe Covid-19 is not a valid reason to not seek a couple more quotes are in the article. The point I was making is that it’s our responsibility as stewards of the public purse to make sure that we are indeed getting the best deal for our taxpayers and residents, and we can’t do that by blindly accepting the first and only quote we get. However, Keeleys LLP is a local and reputable firm which is certainly a tick in my box.

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