SCRUTINY of a failed council outsourcing contract that will roll on until 2025 has been ‘all over the place’, according to a councillor.

Earlier this week, Vale of White Horse District Council’s chief executive Mark Stone said the best possible return for the authority for being part of the Five Councils Partnership was that it would break even.

Senior managers and councillors had hoped it would save the authority £9m by outsourcing back office functions to Capita and VINCI.

But savings have not been as great as expected and the VINCI contract has been scrapped. New staff have had to be employed to make the contract viable and many programs promised by Capita have not been delivered on time.

Now, Liberal Democrat group leader, Emily Smith, has said although she has confidence in Mr Stone to ‘try to improve performance’, ‘very little performance information’ over the deal was available to the public until now.

The district council for Botley and Sunningwell said: “The scrutiny of this contract has been all over the place. There has been very little performance information in the public domain until now.

“Had proper, and local scrutiny arrangements been established from the outset, many of these serious and ongoing performance issues could have been understood and challenged earlier by council members and the public.

She added: “While I have confidence in the new CEO’s approach to trying to improve performance, it is clear that the Vale administration should never have signed up to this overambitious outsourcing project.”

Mr Stone is also chief executive of South Oxfordshire District Council.

It forms part of the partnership, along with two other Hampshire authorities – Havant Borough Council and Hart District Council – and Mendip District Council in Somerset.

At a scrutiny committee on Monday, Abingdon resident and comedy writer Paul Mayhew-Archer asked Mr Stone about whether a ‘culture of secrecy’ existed at Vale and SODC.

Mr Mayhew-Archer referenced ‘Hillgate’ – in which South and Vale’s former chief executive David Hill was given a £180,000 pay off, which remained secret until it was revealed in the Oxford Mail – and ‘taxigate’.

In that, Vale council withheld the name of councillor Mike Badcock, whose contretemps with a taxi driver on a night out resulted in a £4,000 investigation and Mr Badcock eventually apologising.

The Oxford Mail submitted a Freedom of Information request which was declined but only accepted after the newspaper requested a review.

Mr Stone declined to answer – but a motion will be brought by the Lib Dems to a meeting next week.

Debby Hallett will ask the council to note that ‘information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so’.