Watchdog row review call

Sir Ian McCartney

Sir Ian McCartney

Bosses of a now defunct Wigan health watchdog have called for a town hall review after losing out on a new contract to a rival organisation.

The council’s decision to hand over responsibility for the borough’s Healthwatch service to Bolton counterparts sparked a bitter fall-out earlier this year.

Wigan’s former chairman Paul Carroll called the council “spineless and cowardly” for the way his award-winning service had been treated.

A request for the process to be reviewed has been handed to the town hall’s health scrutiny committee and has been considered by councillors this week.

In a letter to the committee, Mr Carroll and his predecessor Sir Ian McCartney said: “We would welcome an independent review of our work by your committee and would be happy to be questioned, in public if necessary. We think your review should assess the entire tendering process.”

The letter came in response to a report submitted to the committee which provided an update on the Healthwatch transition.

It reads: “The tender process was open, fair and legally compliant, focussed on achieving the best outcome. Healthwatch Bolton demonstrated a strong, structural approach to involvement, engagement and information and advice...and was the clear winner. (We) recognise and appreciate work that taken place over previous three years.”

The former bosses, however, said the report contained “inaccuracies” which gave a false impression of the tendering process.

Their letter reads: “The council was not obliged to tender the contract. The council could have negotiated a new contract with us, especially given our understanding of our good performance, or, given the outcome, asked us to consider a joint bid with another organisation and saved thousands of pounds in the process.

“The council has since declared that it awarded the contract to HW Bolton to ensure ‘better value for money and more investment in frontline engagement work’.

“As we now know, courtesy of your own accounts department which inadvertently sent the money to us, HW Bolton’s bid was in fact thousands of pounds more than ours, so the first statement is hard to justify. As for the second, we would have been delighted to discuss more engagement work if our commissioners had bothered to discuss it with us.”

The health committee met on Monday and part of the proceedings regarding the Healthwatch transition were held in private.

The Evening Post understands there are no plans to hold a review.