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Home Kent News Article
by political editor Paul Francis
Kent County Council paid a Westminster-based public relations company more than £11,000 to stage a conference in London – saying it was less expensive to hold it in the capital.
Internal auditors investigated after questions were asked about how the contract for organising the event came to be awarded.
Kent County Council paid Westminster Advisers to arrange the "Action for Growth Summit" at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central London last September.
It did so after the company, which was retained as a paid adviser by KCC between 2007 and 2008, approached the authority with a proposal for the summit.
The county council accepted the idea, but did not seek quotes from other companies to see if it could be done more cheaply.
According to KCC, the conference was designed to consolidate and co-ordinate a range of work on transport infrastructure and housing delivery, deregulation and finance.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, it said: "The event was based in London to secure appropriate attendance from government departments and representation from East Sussex and Kent. Cost estimates compared to a Kent-based venue were less expensive."
The company was considered as the best option because, said the council, it brought international infrastructure experience and wide-ranging expertise across private and public sectors.
Asked why it had not obtained quotes from other companies, KCC said: "Due to the financial level of the contract and unique position of Westminster Advisers in this instance to undertake the work, it was procured through a single tender."
According to KCC, the auditors' investigation concluded the costs were appropriate but found there was a minor breach of the council's code of practice on contracts as the reasons for not getting other quotes was not fully documented.
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