An attempt by councillors to debate the controversial awarding of a £104m Lancashire County Council health contract to the private sector was knocked back.
Labour County Coun Mohammed Iqbal had tried to get the award to Virgin Care of the contract for the council’s 0-16 “Healthy Child Programme” discussed at a meeting of the council’s health scrutiny committee.
But committee Chairman Tory Coun Peter Britcliffe said: “If I could turn microphones off I would. I don’t think we should be discussing this in public ... I am not going to have a debate because the tender process is in a standstill.”
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust was beaten in the tendering process and details of the controversial new contract were revealed in an exclusive Lancashire Post report on Monday.
Coun Iqbal told Coun Britcliffe he “was just asking your views as to how health scrutiny or the health scrutiny steering group could look into that.”
Coun Britcliffe replied the process was “at a legal standstill to allow any unsuccessful bidders to appeal.”
Noting the council had yet to announce the tender award, Coun Britcliffe stressed legal requirements for any private organisation to provide services “to NHS quality and standards.”
Labour Coun Lizzi Collinge asked at what point councillors could intervene, stressing it was a council commissioned service which was under discussion.
Coun Iqbal said he had not been asking for an instant debate, but wanted the award of the contract to be placed in the steering group’s forward work plan.
Green Coun Gina Dowding intervened to remind the comittee the issue is now public knowledge.
A compromise was finally agreed when Tory Coun Charles Edwards suggested it go the scrutiny committe’s steering group.
This next meets on January 10 but Coun Briticliffe warned: "The legal position by January 10 may well not have changed, which means we won’t be able to take it further at that stage, so I hope you won’t be too disappointed.”
“I am not going to have a debate because the tender process is in a standstill.
It was finally agreed it could go to the scrutiny steering group on January 10.