Northamptonshire County Council: Firm linked to commissioner wins contract

One Angel Square, Northamptonshire County Council HQ
Image caption The county council is due to be scrapped in 2021

A firm with links to a council's commissioner has won a contract with the authority that could be worth £7m.

Tony McArdle, a government-appointed commissioner at Northamptonshire County Council, is also a paid adviser at a firm called Newton Europe.

Newton Europe now has a contract to develop a new operating model for the council's adult social care department.

A spokesman for the commissioners said Mr McArdle "has been very clear, open and transparent" about his other role.

He added: "This has been fully declared on his register of interests and rather than just leaving the room during discussions he has never been involved in any way around the company's work in Northamptonshire."

The commissioners were appointed to oversee the council as it struggled to keep control of its budget.

The contract with Oxfordshire-based firm Newton Europe will only be paid if the savings are delivered - known as a "risk-and-reward" contract.

Image copyright Northamptonshire County Council
Image caption Tony McArdle (left) and Brian Roberts were appointed as commissioners at the council in May 2018

The firm was previously paid £435,000 for a 12-week project in which the risk-and-reward contract was suggested, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Council scrutiny committee chairman, Labour's Mick Scrimshaw, said he was unsure whether there was a conflict of interest.

"I just hope the cabinet were very wary of the potential issues and did go into them in some detail before making a decision," he said.

Ian Morris, cabinet member for adult social care at the Conservative-run council, said it had "followed a full open procurement process and the bids received were carefully evaluated".

He said the work was "taking place against a backdrop of significant change, including the national focus on greater health and social care integration and getting ready for the two new unitary councils in April 2021".

The county council and seven district and council will be scrapped in 2021 and replaced by two new unitary authorities.

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