HULL Council has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn after a decision to go against officers' recommendations and award a housing contract to the highest bidder was overturned.
The council had chosen to award the contract for repairs and maintenance, previously held by failed contractor Connaught, to Lovell Partnerships despite legal advice warning the move could break European Union procurement regulations.
The Lovell Partnerships' bid was also the most expensive option – costing 4.3m more than the other bidders – and scored the lowest in terms of quality according to the council's own indicators.
However, it was the only option that would not result in any immediate job losses. Each of the other four bids would result in cuts of between 104 and 115 staff.
Amid fears of a legal challenge, the decision was sent back to cabinet to be reviewed – with the Lovell Partnerships' bid removed from the options.
At a cabinet meeting yesterday the Liberal Democrats voted in favour of the contract being split between Kier Support Services and the council-owned firm Kingstown Works Ltd (KWL) – as previously recommended by officers.
It is understood that further advice from outside the council is being sought to review the advice given and the decision could yet be looked at again.
Council leader Carl Minns said he was "disappointed" the original choice had not stood, and the option chosen was "second best".
"My first thoughts are always how best to protect and provide the best services for the public, and how to protect jobs at what is a very difficult time," he said. "We were unhappy about the challenge, and clearly this is the second best option."
The council would not comment on why the Lovell Partnerships bid had been removed from the list of five options. It is understood the decision was taken following further legal advice.
Coun Mike Ross said that after careful consideration of the report, cabinet decided that an award to Kier and KWL offered best value for the council and for tenants.