Norwich MP’s fresh call for Connaught inquiry

A Norwich MP has renewed calls for a fresh inquiry into the city council's collapsed contract with Connaught and is urging residents across the city to sign a petition backing a probe.

More than 300 workers lost their jobs last September when the stricken firm went into administration and the council was forced to sign a string of emergency contracts totalling �1.2m ahead of finding a new contractor to make sure that some housing repair services could still be delivered.

The Labour-run council has long argued that Connaught's collapse was a national problem and not linked to the �17.5m deal signed with the authority.

But following the collapse it produced a 15 page document detailing the council's role in the contract process and also agreed to a Conservative request for the scrutiny committee to look at the issue. However the Liberal Democrats are continuing to press for an independent inquiry, and the issue has been taken up by Norwich South MP Simon Wright, who has set up an online petition and has also written to tenants likely to have been hit by the collapse urging them to back the inquiry.

'I think while in many respects the agenda is moving on, it doesn't mean we can move away from the council's handling of this,' Mr Wright said. 'We need to be absolutely clear that if there were any mistakes in the process that these are highlighted and explored.'

Alan Waters, the council's cabinet member for resources, performance, and shared services, said: 'A very thorough review of the procurement process was carried out at City Hall, and there are a number of inquiries going on at a national level investigating why Connaught partially collapsed. Simon Wright might be better off waiting for the outcome of those before starting hares running on things that have been fully explored to great depth. He is doing this to divert attention away from the cuts his government is making and we can expect a lot more city council bashing as the cuts begin to bite.'

Last week more than 100 Norwich workers who lost their jobs when Connaught collapsed launched a legal action for unfair dismissal against the firm and companies who then took on the contracts.