THE failures which led to the Blueschool House overspend of almost £1m are not evidence of a systemic cultural problem at Herefordshire Council, according to a local government peer review.

The building in Hereford cost £1.92m to refurbish which was more than double the cost of the original estimate of £950,000 approved by councillors.

Shire Hall commissioned a corporate peer challenge by the Local Government Association which involved a small team of officers and councillors from other authorities spending time reviewing the council’s workings.

However, It’s Our County councillor Anthony Powers asked the audit and governance committee on Tuesday (May 8) why a review had not been commissioned specifically focusing on the failures of the management responsible for the Blueschool House fiasco, the Economy, Communities and Corporate directorate.

He said: “What the audit and governance committee requested and what was agreed was a focused peer review into the ECC directorate in order to focus the Local Government Association’s attention on cultural and systemic issues in that directorate.

“I accept Blueschool House and the culture of the ECC directorate were flagged by officers and the chief executive to be part of this peer review.

“The issue of why this committee’s request which was agreed has not been fulfilled still remains unresolved.”

Chief executive Alistair Neill explained that the corporate peer challenge was the most robust form of review available.

He said: “In reference to Blueschool House, the peer team were made aware of the issues relating to the management of Blueschool House as a key part of the context of the corporate peer challenge.

“The group who came in were given the full remit to consider those matters and concluded that the peer team did not find evidence that the issues in relation to Blueschool House were a manifestation of systemic cultural issues with the ECC.

“Had they done so, we would be looking to take that forward in the matter of keenness to determine how we would address any matters that might exist.”

The peer review team praised the council’s good understanding of the importance of scrutiny and challenge but said it was not completely clear where strategic thinking and strategic decision making happens.