A scrutiny meeting of Councillors today requested further details on Wrexham Council’s arrangements with consultants PWC after several watched a BBC programme that highlighted some possible areas of concern.
Councillor Dana Davies raised the issue prior to the full report being considered by the Customers, Performance, Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee with the themes on cuts and balancing the books continuing through the meeting.
Cllr Davies enquired if anyone had watched the meeting and if Councillors could be provided with an information report based off the issues raised.
“I think there are a lot of concerns based off it. I think from an individual councillor point of view we need to have the information to put to rest, or look further into, the contract that we had with PWC”
“My concern is about templates, they did a lot of work in Wales and it came out in the programme that there are various stages they offer local authorities based off a template.”
“It would be prudent for us to have the information as a Part 2 information report to see if we have concerns to scrutinise or take to audit.”
A Part 2 information report would be a private/secret report circulated to Councillors and not viewable to the public.
Councillors who had not seen the programme were enquiring on details of the show, and how they could watch it. A watch again iPlayer link is being circulated to Councillors, and is included below for those who wish to watch.
Cllr Davies added other concerns, including a 16% figure used in the show over a reward fee attributed to some local authorities, adding “We need to establish the risk and reward timeframe, does it expire in 3 or 5 years? Is there 10 years time risk reward there?”
The risk reward timeframe appears to refer to the billable time, so work done say this year could result in an invoice. There are some commercial agreements possible that could mean that the savings made this year could create bills several years into the future based on the current savings made. No details were given to the arrangements in place with Wrexham Council and PWC on this point.
Cllr Davies enquired if Wrexham had similar work done to other local authorities and was the work unique, or based off ‘templates’. The theme of the BBC programme is that PWC used templating to, as it was described ‘change the name at the front of a document from one authority to another’ adding, “Are they making a profit out of cuts to public services, changing name of local authority and changing the name on front of the documents?”
Cllr Davies added, perhaps with a view to the forthcoming local elections just months away, “As councillors as we are asked in our wards on back of that programme, we need to know what is Part One information we can share, and what is Part Two.”
Cllr Davies’ request was agreed by the Committee, with her additional item asking that the Council also ‘discuss with other local authorities if our phases/templates were the same as they were using’.
Wrexham Council’s Finance Officer did point out that ‘in the main’ the information requested had already been asked for and provided to Councillors.
He added “I am not sure if the template approach was applicable to the work here but we can explore that.”
The 16% figure attributed to other authorities was challenged, with it pointed out the figure was purported to be real however was not agreed.
Cllr Davies rounded up her points by noting there had been “lots of speculation on what we have paid to date, so information on what has been paid to date would be useful, and if it is a final figure.”
The Finance Officer said Wrexham Council’s ‘rate of return figure’ was ‘1 in 10’, adding “That is in the public domain, and the two year contract is still under way.”
Back in January last year we reported on how PWC were to continue as ‘reshaping’ partners of Wrexham Council. At the time we asked Council Leader Mark Pritchard if if PWC’s remuneration was linked to any cuts made and we were told “No, no.”