Tory councillor’s attempt to pin blame on Labour over SFG College firmly contradicted by Conservative-run Harlow Council
News / Fri 25th Aug 2023 at 10:30am
CLAIMS by a backbench Tory councillor that Harlow Labour were to blame for the problems with the Sir Frederick Gibberd College (SFG) building have been flatly contradicted by his own Conservative-run council.
Mark Hall councillor Matthew Saggers was responding to a letter to the editor by former council leader Mark Ingall.
Mr Ingall (now a private citizen) said that Harlow MP Robert Halfon had a number of questions to answer, including:
Who chose Caledonian Modular, a company not a member of the modular building trade body, to construct these modular buildings?
Who oversaw the construction, ensuring it met building standards and who signed the buildings off as safe and fit for purpose?
Councillor Saggers responded by saying: “Local building control…falls within Harlow District Council’s remit.
“At any point, the political leader of Harlow DC could have asked for a review, visited site, called in construction process etc.
“The building of SFG was happening during 2019 into 2020 so the person with the overall oversite / call in control of any of the works would be if my memory serve me right that may have been you (Mark Ingall).
So we asked Harlow Council, if they could clear up a few points. The answers are by a Harlow Council press spokesperson.
Q. What role did Harlow Council have in the building and monitoring of SFG College?
A. None. The council has had no responsibility for the construction or monitoring of the building and we were not made aware until Monday that there were any issues with it at all.
Q. Our film from 2019 clearly shows planning permission being sought and granted at a Harlow Council Dev Committee.
A. Yes, as the Planning Authority, we approved the application.
Q. But after that, does HDC have any role in the monitoring of said project?
A. None – that lay with Department for Education. Our role was to approve the use of the site as a school.
Q. How accurate would it be to say that the council leader (at that time) had any responsibility to monitor/oversee the project or indeed a role in “signing it off” Not at all?
A. No council leader has responsibility for monitoring or overseeing projects of this nature or of signing it off.
“The Department for Education also used a private building control contractor for this development.
The Conservative councillor for Harlow Common, James Leppard has commented: “I hope the same efforts will be made to prove the Harlow Labour Party’s politicking about Robert Halfon’s involvement to be entirely untrue.
“He secured the £30 million funding for the site and had no further involvement yet Harlow Labour and former leader Mark Ingall, are trying misleadingly to pin this on him.
“Therefore, I’m sure the same investigative efforts will be made”.
Seems they are all now taking advice from Boris, when in doubt mislead people. Let’s hope he apologies for the mistake and sets the record straight.
Another stupid comment made by one of the MPs henchmen to try and disguise the real facts. Just shows you how untrustworthy they are and clear evidence to never trust aTory
Just did a very quick google search. HDC say the DofE used a private building control provider. However, the council still has to set a plan. it says "When your application is approved by your local council building control team, you will usually be provided with an Inspection Service Plan before you start work. This outlines the stages of work that require inspection. You’ll need to inform your local council building control team when you start and when you reach the stages outlined in your Inspection Service Plan so the surveyors can carry out site visits". So HDC must know something from the surveyors report? DofE defiantly know something. So the big question is.... what do the inspection reports say, and who were the surveyors? Someone must know............ Mr Halfon your a DofE minister, you must have the answers............
I hope the same efforts will be made to prove the Harlow Labour Party's politicking about Robert Halfon's involvement to be entirely untrue. He secured the £30 million funding for the site and had no further involvement yet Harlow Labour and former leader Mark Ingall, are trying misleadingly to pin this on him. Therefore, I'm sure the same investigative efforts will be made.
Councillor Matthew Saggers, perhaps an apology would be in order?
James Leppard. He secured the £30 million pound for the site, so that's being involved. Agreed. He is also a minister in the DofE and the local MP, so therefore like it or not, he was and is involved. So are you telling me he had no involvement or interest in a brand new school in his constituency? If so that in itself is shameful. The truth hurts, but he was and is involved. Be accountable whilst working hard for Harlow! Where is he now? Where is the leader of the Council now? No photo opportunity or chance to put on a hi vis vest for this one!!!
Having claimed to have "championed the campaign" and secured funding for the new hospital, I hope he takes a bit more interest, and becomes more involved with that one. Could end up with no hospital as well!
I understand that blame is usually the first port of call for politicians and party leads to get an easy low blow in. Surely everyone’s focus, regardless of political party allegiance, should be getting children back into a structurally sound school and pleasant learning environment?? Focus your energy where it is needed and deal with the ‘why’ after.
Mike. I see entirely where you are coming from, and think everyone would agree that should be the case. My own relative attends the school. However, the focus on getting children into a structurally sound school should have happened in the first place, and we would not find ourselves in this position. God forbid there had been some kind of collapse, I'm sure the focus would be strongly on who was to blame especially if there were injuries? Someone has allowed this to happen and for the children to be placed into an unsafe environment. If I had secured the funds for a new school, then I would want to know and be reassured by all those on the project that everything was in order. Sadly Councillor Leppard has already said that was not the case!
Phil, indeed and agree. My comment was not specifically aimed at you, it was aimed generally at political figures using this terrible situation to score points, rather than use their status in our town to help resolve the issue.
Mike. Thank you. I'm sure that there are many on each side that want to resolve the situation, but sadly, and its true, Councillor Leppard and Saggers have both gone in feet first with this one with contradictions and attempts to cover for Mr Halfon which has not helped. If you are going to dish it out, then they must be able to take it as well. I am wholeheartedly behind getting the children back in a safe environment as soon as possible.
Phil, I do understand your frustration, but the logical implication is that when you buy a plane ticket, you will undertake full due diligence on the pilot, if you contract a builder you personally will check all his credentials, if you call a cab, you personally will check his licence and driving record, etc, etc. Not very realistic, is it? That is why we have professional advisers/specialists who should be held to account for any of their failings.
Exactly the point I make Margaret. If I had secured the funding, I would not just leave it there. I would want to be involved and have those advisors advise me that the project is as it should be and safe. Not just leave it there. You can not compare a taxi ride to a £30 million project to house young children?!
Phil, to make the sort of follow up you suggest is completely unrealistic, which is why we have a Civil Service and specialist and expert advisers. Neither Mr Halfon nor Harlow Council would have had any influence over the construction tender process or the construction specifications. It doesn't work like that.
Wow, no wonder we are in such a mess, counsellors don't understand their governing planning process, the council has questionable approach to construction within its area remit. And look again who looses, the tax payer while those set to govern us squabble blaming another department like it's going to solve it all. There seriously needs to be a reform of some sort. How utterly embarrassing
Guess which party privatised local authority building control functions? Yes, you've guessed it, it was Margaret Thatchers Conservative government in 1984. The scheme of the private Approved Inspector was introduced by the Building Act 1984 (“BA 1984”). Prior to the BA 1984, the role of ensuring that a project complied with Building Regulations was carried out by Local Authorities’ building control departments. After the BA 1984, the role of ensuring compliance with Building Regulations could be carried out by either Local Authority inspectors or private Approved Inspectors depending on what the client decided. See article that explains this issue at: https://www.fenwickelliott.com/research-insight/annual-review/2019/liability-approved-inspectors#:~:text=The%20scheme%20of%20the%20private,Local%20Authorities%27%20building%20control%20departments.
So the usual muck slinging goes on between the two main Parties. In the meantime of course staff at the school and others in the area will be getting on with the job of ensuring that pupils can continue with their education in the best way possible. As someone who was tasked to deal with large scale emergencies in the community, I can only say there is nothing like dealing with the real thing, staff will have been placed under tremendous strain and they should be given a big vote of thanks.
Private Approved Inspectors are preferred by building contractors for a reason. "When taking a straw poll of other surveyors, many seem to agree that the Local Authority Building Control officers have a reputation for being more independent and thorough; for instance, with more on-site inspections than Private Building Control. Contractors may understandably prefer the ‘lighter touch’ of the latter, which can mean fewer and less thorough inspections. This can give obvious advantages to contractors but may not be in the best interests of the client." See article by chartered surveyors https://www.grumittwademason.com/private-building-control-local-authority-building-control/
Loving the comment from Nicholas ,like he never slings muck. People need honesty and truth about why this has happened. The Tory councillor trying to blame the blameless to deflect the criticism of the MP and he has been called out. The MP can’t state what a wonderful job he did and then disappeared when it’s gone so horribly wrong. Same with the leader of the council. If he was a good leader he would call out the MP. Yet another example of why people has so little faith in politicians.
What Harlow Alliance do Alderman Durcan is deal with facts. Whether it is from how Labour deceived residents about the new Bushy Croft development through to the Conservatives deceiving residents about Sherards House, how Labour failed to consult resident about the Local Development Plan (LDV) and the creation of HGGT and how the Conservatives failed to take action to object to the LDV of Epping Forest DC, both Parties have demonstrated how they have so little regard for those of us living in Harlow. HAP will continue to scrutinise and make comments about both Parties where we think residents are getting a bad deal.
Judging by the fact that under Labour Harlow Council managed such dreadful reviews that the sadly missed Harlow Star newspaper gave them the headlines "Shambolic" and "Shambolic 2" - I would suggest judging by some of our housing stock the Thatcher Government was dead right in 1984! Frankly they should have done it in 1979!