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Lancashire taxpayers face legal bill over waste case

Lancashire County Council will waste taxpayers money by launching an appeal against Environmental Waste Controls (EWC) successful application in the Manchester High Court to seek compensation for missing out on a waste contract, according to EWC chairman Bill Edwards.

In December 2009, a High Court judge found there was a breach of duty by Lancashire County Council because of its failure to observe the principles of transparency in awarding a three-year household waste recycling centre contract to Sita.  Merseyside-based waste firm EWC claimed its tender was about £3.35 million cheaper than the winning bid, from Sita, and issued a claim for compensation.

Speaking about the councils move to appeal the High Courts decision, EWC chairman Bill Edwards told MRW: This is a waste of taxpayers money in order to defend and cover up their errors. They are not going to win their appeal as the judge has already said that there are no grounds for appeal. Our lawyers are very confident that they will not win their appeal.
Last years ruling made by Judge Hegarty found that EWC suffered loss and damage in the form of the loss of a real or substantial chance of being the successful tenderer.

The judge also noted that the evaluation and assessment of the bids were carried out by John Birch, the councils project manager for waste services procurement, who had formerly worked for Sita. However, the judge ruled out any allegation of bias as Mr Birch stated that he did not think about any possible conflict of interest.

Edwards said that Birch had based his measuring criteria around EWCs financials and said that should not have been used because it was nothing to do with the measuring criteria.
Judge Hegarty said: It may be doubted whether the financial standing of the bidder or its ability to commit sufficient economic resources to enable it to fulfil its obligations under the contract are matters which could be said to constitute criteria linked to the subject-matter of the contract as required by regulation 30(2)[Public Contracts Regulation].

However, the judge did find that EWC's challenge to the detailed assessment of their bid had failed and no serious or manifest error had occurred.

Lancashire County Council waste and natural resources management manager Steve Browne said: The court decision was expected and the county council will now apply to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the earlier decision. We believe the council has a strong case, particularly as the judge found in almost all respects in favour of the council."

Edwards claims that EWCs compensation bill will be worth between £3m and £5m.

Edwards explained: These people [county council] have been found to have exercised bias towards Sita and against us. They have spent public money trying to protect their own position and now they want to spend more public money to protect their own jobs and maintain their own view which has been shown to be manifestly wrong. This should cause councils to make sure their documents are more open and transparent. They need to justify their decisions in an open and transparent way.



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