Labour raises concerns for Thanet debt in wake of Seaborne failure

 

Labour's Andy McDonald has suggested the Seaborne Freight disaster could have left the local council, which owns the port, massively out of pocket once again.

Thanet Council was hit with a multi-million bill after the last company to try and run freight services from Ramsgate collapsed in 2013. 

The shadow transport secretary led what became a second grilling of Chris Grayling in the Commons this afternoon over the Seaborne Freight failure, accusing him of presiding over a 'Whitehall farce' and 'off the Richter scale' levels of incompetence.

This time the questions came in the wake of the termination of the contract and a Transport Network exclusive revealing that shortcuts were taken on the procurement process.

Mr McDondald said: 'His [Grayling's] decision to award the contract to Seaborne led Ramsgate port owner Thanet Council's budget deficit to grow by £2m in the last year. His personal intervention to halt the budget vote last Thursday has compounded those losses.

'What's more tax payers face a legal bill of nearly a million to fight euro tunnel following his decision.'

In reference to the Transport Network exclusive, Mr McDonald said: 'He [Grayling] told the house last month that this procurement was done properly. It has since emerged that the DfT took shortcuts on the procurement of the Seaborne Freight contract. It was signed off by a subgroup of a subgroup and the main form of oversight, the Procurement Assurance Board, never looked at it.'

Mr Grayling reiterated that no money had been paid to Seaborne Freight.

However he would not specify how much in terms of civil service time and resources had been put into the failed contract, who had paid for the dredging of Ramsgate Port or how much was paid by his department in legal fees. 

In a cautious acceptance that Thanet Council should not be left out of pocket, Mr Grayling said in response to a question from a local Conservative MP: 'We have to be very mindful of the financial position of Thanet council and make sure they are not exposed to financial risk as a result of the broader work on resilience that is taking place right the way across Kent.'

Transport select committee chair, Lilian Greenwood, said there remained legal questions over the contract and asked how the prospect of a no deal, which prompted the Seaborne contract, was 'unforseeable'.

Mr Grayling offered new information by stating 'the thing that prompted the [contract] move was a change to the assumptions to the levels and length of disruption that might arise in a no deal Brexit'.

He went on to state that DfT had made provision with the other two established ferry companies involved in the £108m resilience plans to provide ferry capacity in the event of a no deal Brexit.

Arrangements were made with 'Brittany Ferries and DFDS for extra capacity on two additional routes that were not in our original mix' he said.

'Those are options we are free to take up and we will be having discussions across government in the next few days to assess current needs current and forecast and see if those are required.

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, said: ' The Department for Transport waited until September 2018 to start thinking about the risks to freight transport across these important routes and entered into a £13.8m contract with Seaborne Freight despite it being a new operation, owning no ferries, and not having binding contracts to use the specified ports.

'We will be pressing the Department for answers on how it awarded its three new ferry contracts, what it is doing to manage risks and exactly what it intends to do now it has axed the contract with Seaborne.'

PAC takes evidence from DfT and Defra on Wednesday, February 13 for its inquiry Brexit and the UK Border.

Register now for full access


Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

 
comments powered by Disqus
 
 
highways jobs

Engineer Maintenance

Liverpool City Council
£32,233 - £37,107
Liverpool City Council are looking to recruit an Engineer Maintenance. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Site Supervisor

Liverpool City Council
£32,233 - £37,107
Liverpool City Council wish to appoint Site Supervisors to supervise the City Council's highway construction works. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Permit Officer

Liverpool City Council
£23,111 - £27,358
Liverpool City Council are looking to recruit a Permit Officer. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Contracts Manager

Liverpool City Council
£37,107 - £41,846
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Contracts Manager based in Highways & Transportation. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Principal Engineer - Asset Management

Liverpool City Council
£37,107 - £41,846
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Principal Engineer - Asset Management. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Highways Inspector

Liverpool City Council
£32,233 - £37,107
We are seeking to recruit an enthusiastic individual to be a key member of our Highways Team. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Engineer - Capital Projects

Liverpool City Council
£32,233 - £37,107
Liverpool City Council is looking to recruit an Engineer - Capital Projects. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Engineer - Highways Capital Projects (S106)

Liverpool City Council
£32,233 - £37,107
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit an Engineer (Capital Projects). Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Team Leader - Asset Management

Liverpool City Council
£41,846 - £46,560
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Team Leader - Asset Management. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Technical Assistant

Liverpool City Council
£23,111 - £27,358
Liverpool City Council are looking to recruit a Technical Assistant. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Waste and Recycling Engagement Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£24,460 - £26,358
We now have an exciting opportunity for a talented and enthusiastic individual to join us and be part of the North London Waste Authority (NLWA). Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Major Transport & Development Projects - Strategic Specialist

Wiltshire Council
£51,763 - £57,066
Wiltshire has a highly regarded record of securing funding and delivering major transport improvements across all modes of travel. Wiltshire
Recuriter: Wiltshire Council

Assistant Director - Growth and Development

Lincoln City Council
£59,058.00 - £65,127.00
Looking for an experienced manager with a good track record in proactively driving economic growth and investment. Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincoln City Council

Assistant Director – Transport and Connectivity

Birmingham City Council
£73,513 - £90,864
This is one of a number of influential new senior roles for collaborative people, motivated by doing what’s right for our city and residents. Birmingham, West Midlands
Recuriter: Birmingham City Council

Director (Environment and Planning)

Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council
£77,265 p.a.
You will have a great opportunity to drive forward an ambitious strategic growth agenda... Hinckley, Leicestershire
Recuriter: Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council

Service Director – Environment

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£98,615
Looking to recruit to a key post within our Economy and Infrastructure Directorate.  Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Transport & Development Officer (Career Grade)

London Borough of Bexley
£29,130 - £40,173
This is a Career Grade post and an excellent opportunity. Bexley (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Bexley

Transport Planning Officer x 2

Plymouth City Council
£32,233 to £41,846
If you are an experienced Transport Planner then we need you to step aboard.  Plympton, Plymouth
Recuriter: Plymouth City Council

Transport Planning Officer x 2

Plymouth City Council
£32,233 to £41,846
Exciting time to join the Council and this role represents an opportunity to make a real difference... Plympton, Plymouth
Recuriter: Plymouth City Council

Waste and Fleet Operations Manager

Ipswich Borough Council
£52,020 - £56,100 (pay award pending)
Looking for someone to lead and manage a large and vital operational area... Ipswich, Suffolk
Recuriter: Ipswich Borough Council