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Former council leader in police review after holidaying with Mears Scotland official

A former North Lanarkshire council leader is being investigated for going on holiday with a senior executive from Scottish contractor Mears Scotland.

Police Scotland is looking into claims that Jim McCabe and his wife took a holiday with Mears Scotland official Steve Kelly and his wife.

Bookings for the holiday with the McCabes were found by Glasgow Council officials on Ms Kelly’s computer, where she held a position as assistant to the director of land and environmental services.

The bookings were found after Ms Kelly was suspended on a precautionary basis pending an internal investigation.

Information was passed onto North Lanarkshire Council chief executive Paul Jukes who then alerted Police Scotland.

Police Scotland confirmed to Construction News that information had been passed to them and the circumstances were being reviewed.

According to The Herald, Mr McCabe has not denied going on holiday with the Kellys, saying: “All holidays I have been on, I have paid for. And I can prove that beyond any doubt.”

The holiday is claimed to have taken place close to the time that North Lanarkshire Council was dealing with Mears Scotland over a housing repairs contract.

Morrison Facilities Services, in which North Lanarkshire Council owns a 33 per cent stake, was originally awarded the contract in 2010.

As part of the contract, Morrison FS agreed to a best-value efficiency standard and to paying 2.75 per cent of all works completed each year back to the council.

At the end of year one, Morrison FS had reported a £2.2m loss and was sold to Mears in 2012, which raised concerns about the contract.

Instead of cancelling the framework and putting it on the market to re-tender, the council renegotiated the best-value efficiency standard with Mears Scotland.

Renegotiations took place at the end of 2014 and revised proposals to lower the amount of money Mears Scotland had to pay back to the council were approved by North Lanarkshire in 2015.

A threshold system was established meaning that the contractor would pay 2.75 per cent on works up to £30m over the lifetime of the framework.

This would increase to 4.69 per cent for works valued at £30m-£35m and 7.69 per cent for those above £35m over the duration of the framework.

Meanwhile Construction News understands an unrelated internal audit investigation into three members of staff in North Lanarkshire Council’s procurement department has also recently been completed.

New council leader Paul Jukes, who took over from Jim McCabe when he resigned in January this year, received an anonymous letter in March which accused the members of staff of improper procurement procedures.

The letter is understood to have made accusations of staff members ensuring some companies were awarded contracts and that some companies made more profit than they should from contracts.

A disciplinary investigation is taking place and disciplinary action has not been determined yet.

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