Angus Council’s divorce from an £800,000 partnership with a firm of accountancy consultants has been sealed – but questions remain over how and when the decree nisi was signed.
The EY deal was the subject of major debate at a full meeting of the council in Forfar, with opposition SNP councillors claiming the manner in which the company had been ditched after a three-year liaison to help the authority through its Transforming Angus programme was the “antithesis of democracy” .
Coalition leader Bob Myles rejected accusations that the ending of the relationship – which will bring the demanding change programme back in-house – had breached council governance requirements, and he went on the offensive by labelling any suggestion that officers did not have the capacity to take the strategy forward as “disingenuous and disrespectful.”
EY were engaged in 2014 to help identify potential savings as the council sought to meet the significant financial pressures facing every Scots authority.
In that time the firm has helped Angus secure cuts of around £4 million, and although the SNP group did not stand in the way of a decision not to progress to the second phase of the EY deal, Nationalist group leader Lynne Devine said surprise had given way to anger over the lack of information about the decision.
“This is a huge strategic change and the way this decision has been taken is the antithesis of democracy and does nothing for transparency or trust,” she said.
“Our overriding concern is the way this has been manoeuvred and I sincerely hope that our staff will not be overburdened, which was definitely a concern right at the start of the Transforming Angus process and the EY contract.”
Legal chief Sheonagh Hunter told councillors: “It wasn’t the termination of a contract, it was a non-agreement to enter into phase two and that did not require a contract.”
It has, however, emerged that a report presented to a scrutiny and audit committee only a week ago referred to an “ongoing relationship with EY.”
The scrutiny committee convenership is traditionally held by a member of the opposition and current incumbent, Arbroath councillor Alex King said: “Neither at the committee or pre-agenda was there any mention that the EY arrangement was no longer to continue.
“If there had been a major change I would have thought it appropriate to advise me, as convener, of that change.”