Shine a light … FOI and the Ely bridge

shine a lightA colleague at the County Council has done some excellent work to demonstrate how abuse of process, by councillors who should know better, resulted in the Ely bridge cost overrun.

Until now we’ve depended on what’s in papers for the Economy & Environment Committee in which officers were remarkably restrained as they tried to explain why the project had proceeded as it did (click here for my last related post). Now we’ve got the background information from emails and internal reports which have been provided in response to an FOI request from Nichola Harrison.

Nichola’s compiled a report (click here to read and/or download it) in which she provides the detail which led to the Ely project being progressed against officer advice and contrary to good project management principles. She does this in the broader context of the Mayor’s bold plans for transport projects in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough.

There’s no doubt we do need to be bold when we plan for Cambridge’s future but we also need to be rational and to make sure that decisions are deliberate and evidence based. Too much recently seems to be at odds with this and focused solely on delivering the Mayor’s own agenda with speed being the only criterion of success. Witness the recent standoff with the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the flimsy A428 paper going to the next Combined Authority meeting.

Mayor Pamer is quoted as saying ‘I have to wonder what the point is of involving members at all’. Maybe he should reflect on the notion that we employ officers so that they can give informed advice and that members should listen to that advice and make decisions based on it and not in defiance thereof.

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