Tram boss ‘walked out of meeting with council’ over contract termination plans

Richard Jeffrey walked out out of a meeting according to the Tram Inquiry today.
Richard Jeffrey walked out out of a meeting according to the Tram Inquiry today.
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TRAM boss Richard Jeffrey walked out of a meeting with senior council officials after he was challenged over his plan to seek termination of the contract for the troubled project.

The tram inquiry, chaired by Lord Hardie, heard that in 2010, the council’s arms-length company TIE believed ending the contract with Bilfinger Berger Siemens was the best option to overcome the problems with the controversial scheme.

But Alastair Maclean, who was then the council’s head of legal, said he had serious concerns about TIE’s strategy, which he raised with council chief executive Tom Aitchison and others.

“They convened a meeting with Richard Jeffrey (TIE chief executive) where we would talk about the options. Mr Jeffrey walked out of that meeting. He was inflamed at what I was presenting.

“He subsequently claimed he had another meeting he had to urgently depart for.”

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Soon after, Mr Maclean took the “highly unusual” step of speaking direct to council leader Jenny Dawe about his concerns.

He said: “I felt in an invidious position. I had made my position clear, I had experienced significant pushback from TIE, I was not getting a feeling of agreement from those at that meeting and I was concerned my message would be ignored or lost in translation.”

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He said he was concerned the council did not have all the facts and TIE was in a weak position in its case against the contractor.

“I had a very strong feeling that TIE would have lost in court. I made that clear to the leader of the council.

“I could see an in-excess-of-£200m claim coming to the council in two years’ time if we allowed TIE to keep going down the route of termination.”

Mr Maclean said everything was later overtaken by the drive to mediation, which finally got the project back on track.