City Council caught up in contracts row

LANCASTER tradespeople are losing out on work with their own city council to rivals from out of the area, according to the Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce.

Concern is centred around a partnership between Lancaster City Council and Preston-based contracting firm Forrest, which is carrying out an £8m Council Housing Capital Programme of works for the city over a five-year period.

And there is mounting pressure on the city council to be more transparent about its contract with Forrest, after it refused to release an internal report on the partnership.

Questions were raised about local contractors missing out on work and leaseholder residents have been shocked by what they saw as “outrageous” charges for pebble dashing work carried out as part of the contract. Ann Morris, the chamber’s chief executive, said: “I don’t know why there hasn’t been more fuss made about this.”

The city council is also refusing to say what percentage of Forrest’s workforce is currently “local”, despite a target to employ 80 per cent of people who live in the LA postcode area by March 31, 2012. The contract started on April 1 last year.

Forrest said it had a policy of employing local people on any project it carries out.

Eric Ollerenshaw, Lancaster and Fleetwood said: “It’s a pity that the council isn’t being more open about the nature of this contract.”

See the Lancaster Guardian (29-09-11) for full story.