Law enforcement agencies have been notified to investigate alleged fraudulent figures at a refurbishment company that has just been granted a significant amount of public funding.

Mears, a well-established repair firm, is now the focus of a complaint to the police due to concerns of data manipulation related to their work at North Lanarkshire Council.

Despite these complications, council representatives have approved a new contract for Mears – a private deal worth a staggering £1.8bn which is considered the largest of its kind in Scotland.

Paul Di Mascio
Councillor Paul Di Mascio.

The controversy surrounding Mears led to tumultuous scenes within the council, with some representatives from Progressive Change North Lanarkshire (PCNL) who objected to the contract being labelled as “conspiracy theorists”. This heated exchange was led by Labour council leader Jim Logue and culminated in the dissenting representatives being removed from the chamber.

Details of a classified report have been uncovered which cautioned councillors that they had little choice but to award Mears the contract, despite prior incidents where the firm was found to have manipulated performance figures over numerous years while working on other contracts with the local authority.

The report stated that if Mears was not awarded the contract, the local authority would have no alternative for conducting repairs on local residences. The report also highlighted the lack of internal resources within the council to manage contractors and carry out repairs on social housing and council buildings, indicating that if Mears were not awarded the contract, the firm could take legal action.

Consequences were also outlined for future elections, as the council lacks the necessary resources and expertise to manage polling places, deliver ballot boxes or administer the receipt of ballot boxes at the count centre.

The Mears scandal was unveiled when a whistleblower reported their concerns to Audit Scotland last year, alleging that the company had been manually amending completion dates on repairs jobs to give the impression that they were finishing repairs more promptly than was the case. A subsequent investigation by the council confirmed the validity of these allegations, suggesting this malpractice could potentially have been taking place for some time.

Representatives from Progressive Change North Lanarkshire have been critically examining the Mears deal for months, arguing that it is unacceptable for the council to have been coerced into awarding this contract.

PCNL Deputy Leader Paul DiMascio described the situation as damning evidence of the catastrophic failure of this council to have protected council interests more effectively. He stated that there was no contingency plan in place for if the contract was awarded to a company other than Mears, pointing out that the council does not own the management system which schedules repairs do not have sufficient resources to deliver repairs punctually.

Police Scotland has been requested to scrutinise Mears’ data manipulation claims within the past fortnight. It is unclear whether council staff or councillors were cognizant of the police report when they voted to award the deal last week. A Police Scotland spokesperson stated, “Reports have been received and the information is being assessed.”

A representative from North Lanarkshire Council said, “The council unanimously decided at a meeting this week to award the contract for housing and corporate property repairs to Mears Limited. This ensures that 37,000 council houses will receive routine and emergency repairs and the council’s property estate will be maintained appropriately while achieving best value for tenants and residents.” Mears has chosen not to comment on the matter.

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