Labour Councillors letter to Stroud News and Journal criticizing PPE contract hand outs

Dear Editor

As local councillors, we hear heart-breaking cases every day from local people who have lost their jobs or their homes or are struggling to make ends meet due to the impact of the pandemic. We are heading into one of the greatest economic crises ever to hit our country. Public sector workers are threatened with a pay freeze, the furlough will soon end, and cuts to public spending and tax rises are on their way. More and more people are relying on foodbanks for help.

It is shocking therefore to read story after story in the national press how some firms and individuals have been making huge profits out of this crisis, awarded contracts worth millions of pounds without competition or any prior experience. A recent report from the National Audit Office raised concerns about how billions of pounds of contracts have been awarded without competition or any proper transparency. Only this last week The Times reported one local example: Steve Dechan, a former Conservative Stroud Town Councillor, was given £276m worth of competition-free contracts to supply PPE and had enough leftover from his deal to make a profit of more than one million pounds of taxpayers’ money.

The Conservative government response is that during the crisis they had to put the rules to one side. But does it really have to be this way? Some of us volunteered our time to assemble PPE when it was most desperately needed, working with a local company that manufactured components at cost. Enterprise and innovation of course are to be valued – but not making huge profits from a national crisis.

As councillors, we have to follow strict rules about how we award contracts, always mindful of value for money as this is the hard-earned cash of the people we represent. Throughout the pandemic, even when decisions had to be made quickly, we stuck to these rules. 

As we are all called on to tighten our belts and enter the largest recession in our country’s history, we call on our Conservative fellow councillors, and our MP, to join us in calling for an urgent investigation into how these contracts were awarded and condemning any further awards of government contracts without competition, as well as an end to profits being made from taxpayers’ money.

Yours sincerely

Stroud District Councillors

Jenny Miles, Rachel Curley, Tom Williams (Cainscross)
Miranda Clifton, Paul Denney (Cam)
Doina Cornell, Colin Fryer, Trevor Hall (Dursley)
Nigel Prenter (Rodborough)
Steve Lydon (Stanleys)
Chris Brine, Gary Powell, Mattie Ross (Stonehouse)
Chas Townley (Stroud, Uplands)

Gloucestershire County Councillors

Steve Robinson (Nailsworth)
Brian Oosthuysen (Rodborough)
Lesley Williams (Stonehouse)

Town and Parish Councillors

Danae Savvidou, Wendy Thomas (Dursley Town Council)
Mark Huband (Minchinhampton Parish Council)
Natalie Bennett (Nailsworth Town Council)
John Bloxsom, Laurie Davies, Jess McQuail, Vanessa Price (Stroud Town Council)