COUNCIL chiefs will 'carefully consider' the 'monopoly situation' which the Salvation Army has on a contract for James Lee House.

On January 15, Warrington Borough Council's executive board agreed to award the new contract, which provides supported housing for single adults at risk of homelessness at the site, on Brick Street.

However, it was 'called in' by Cllr Steve Parish (LAB – Chapelford and Old Hall), Cllr Amanda King (LAB – Great Sankey South) and Cllr Bob Barr (LD – Lymm North and Thelwall).

James Lee House, which is managed and run by the Salvation Army, provides 54 units of accommodation for men and up to eight women.

The new agreement was for a period of 12 months until March 31 next year, with the option to extend for a further six months.

The value of the contract remains at £297,000 per year – the same as the current arrangement.

If the additional six-month contract option is actioned, the total value will be £445,500.

Following the 'call-in', the matter came before the scrutiny committee at the Town Hall last Wednesday.

The committee can offer advice to the executive board, offer no advice, or refer the matter to the full council for advice in 'exceptional circumstances'.

But it has no power to overturn an executive decision, or to substitute its own decision in place of the original.

During last Wednesday's meeting, members decided to ask the executive board to consider whether the short-term contract 'deters' other potential providers bidding, whether other providers are 'put off bidding by the monopoly situation which the Salvation Army has on the contract' and whether the council should be more proactive in encouraging and commissioning other providers to show interest in bidding for the contract.

Members also asked the executive board to consider whether officers should look at the lease arrangements on James Lee House 'to avoid a monopoly situation arising in the future'.

Scrutiny committee member Cllr Colin Froggatt said: "The scrutiny committee felt that the issues covered in the recommendations to the executive board were areas which had not been considered in the original papers presented to the board.

"It was not the intention of the committee to prevent the contract going forward but to ensure that these areas were fully discussed and considered when awarding this contract and any awards of future contracts."

The matter will come before the executive board again at its meeting on March 12.

A council spokesman said: "Executive board members will carefully consider the scrutiny report and discuss it at the meeting in March."

Last month Cllr Maureen McLaughlin, executive board member for public health and wellbeing, said she feared not awarding the contract would present a 'significant problem'.