Police consider re-opening enquiry into CEO of Gloucestershire County Council
22nd July 2019
Gloucestershire Constabulary is considering whether to re-open an investigation into alleged ‘misconduct in public office’ by the chief executive officer of Gloucestershire County Council, Peter Bungard.
Environmental group Community R4C alleges that his actions were intended to keep secret the wrongful award of a £650 million incinerator contract to Urbaser Balfour Beatty. This contract is now the subject of a high court challenge to be heard later this year.
The allegations against Mr Bungard were previously investigated by Wiltshire police who did not refer it to the Crown Prosecution Service. However, a write-in campaign by supporters of Community R4C invoking the ‘victims right to review’ has resulted in Gloucestershire police taking another look.
Community R4C’s allegations relate to a crucial meeting of Gloucestershire County Council’s Scrutiny Committee in 2015 which voted to keep secret from the full Council that a renegotiated contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty would increase the cost of the Javelin Park incinerator by £150 million to £650 million.
On November 19th, the night before the vote Mr Bungard asked to meet privately with Cllr Brian Oosthuysen, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee. Cllr Oosthuysen has confirmed that Mr Bungard used that meeting to try to persuade him to vote against the call-in decision.
The next day at the crucial Scrutiny Committee meeting, Mr Oosthuysen voted as a member in favour of a ‘call-in ‘ for review by the full Council but, when the vote was tied, then voted as Chair against the call-in. As a result the new contract remained secret from the full Council, hiding what Community R4C claim was effectively an improper private deal and a breach of procurement law.
Community R4C alleges that this constitutes a criminal offence of ‘misconduct in a public office’. According to the Crown Prosecution Service such an offence occurs when:
- a public officer acting as such;
- willfully neglects to perform his duty and/or willfully misconducts himself;
- to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder;
- without reasonable excuse or justification.
Sue Oppenheimer of Community R4C said: “We need to be able to trust the Chief Executive of the County Council to act impartially, in the public’s interest and with openness. This is also a matter of public duty and of GCC policy. We believe that there is clear evidence that Peter Bungard misconducted himself to such a degree as to be an abuse of the public’s trust in the office of Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council. “
The new review by Gloucestershire Constabulary is being conducted by Detective Superintendent Richard Ocone.
Community R4C is a Community Benefit Society based in Stroud, Gloucestershire and registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. It is a community-led initiative to provide economic, social and environmental benefits for Gloucestershire by treating waste as a valuable resource rather than burning or burying it.