Who’s backing Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor: part 3

Close Protection Security

Three public sector contracts, two companies, one director, and a generous donation to the Tees Valley mayor. But, so what? 26th April 2019.  Just another normal day at the Tees Valley Authority, as it seemed.  But this was the day the Gazette announced that Close Protection Security Ltd had been awarded the contract for landside security at Teesside Airport. Nice, but not exactly earth shattering, you might think.

Shaun woods, airport manager, said “We are delighted to extend our partnership with Close Protection Security. We already have a close relationship with the company thanks to [their] security work at St George Hotel.”

“With that existing agreement in mind, it made sense to bring Close Protection Security on-board for landside security duties.”

Financial details of the deal could not be revealed because they were ‘commercially sensitive’, but the agreement was to work ‘on a rolling basis’.

Put this in other words: the contract is open ended and appears to have been awarded without a tendering process.

Ben Houchen was enthusiastic for two reasons; in the first place it ensures that contracts go to local firms, and secondly, as he said that day “Chris and Glenn at CPS have done a fantastic job so far”.

Now this was remarkably perceptive of Houchen, because Chris, that’s Chris Petty, had only been appointed as director some eight weeks earlier.

2019, it turns out, was a good year for Chris Petty.  Another company, of which he is managing director,  Cornerstone Business Solutions, was later in the year awarded a contract to supply IT support to the airport 

This is unsurprising as Chris Petty is already well known in airport circles, as his company has a contract with Cameron’s Brewery, of which David Soley, the chair of the airport board, is a director. 

Then in November, it was announced that Cornerstone Business Solutions had been awarded the contract to supply free WiFi connection in Middlesbrough town centre, in a deal worth just over £84,000.

Cornerstone is based in Map House in Stockton, the same building that once housed Houchen’s own company, RU Active Ltd, as well as Map Group UK.  We mention this because Map Group is among Houchen’s donors. As is Cornerstone, which gifted Houchen £5,000 in December 2019.

But, so what?

Given Chris Petty’s success in winning public sector contracts for the two companies of which he is a director (he has since resigned as director of Close Protection Security), this donation should raise eyebrows.

Is this a case of cash for contracts? 

That’s what it looks like.

It may be that Houchen’s enthusiasm for hiring local firms may be based on something other than local pride.  If there is an alternative explanation for the award of these contracts, then Houchen needs to provide it. 

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