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News: Suspended civil servant sues Dept for Transport

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27th Nov 2012
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A civil servant who was suspended following the West Coast mainline rail franchise fiasco is to take legal action against the Department for Transport over the way that she was treated.

Kate Mingay, the DfT’s director of commercial and technical services, was one of three officials suspended in early October, after the government changed its decision to award the franchise to FirstGroup.   FirstGroup had offered to pay £13.3 billion to oust rival, Virgin Trains, and replace it in running and operating the London-to-Scotland line until 2028.   But on 3 October, within hours of the new transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, finding “complete unacceptable mistakes” in his department’s handling of the bid, it was cancelled. Mingay was then immediately suspended   According to the Daily Telegraph, however, Mingay is expected to claim in a preliminary High Court hearing scheduled for Thursday that the hasty nature of her suspension prior to any official inquiry into what went wrong with the bid, has jeopardised her career.   Only days after that suspension, she issued a statement saying: “While it has been widely reported in the context of the award for the West Coast Main Line that I have been suspended, my role has been inaccurately portrayed, mainly due to statements and other comment made by the Department for Transport itself.”   Therefore, she wanted to make it clear that she did not have “lead responsibility for the project”.   Neither she nor any member of her team had “any responsibility for the economic modelling for this project or for any Department for Transport project. Nor did I have responsibility for the financial modelling in respect of this project”, she added.   The legal action reportedly comes against a backdrop of infighting within the civil service over who was to blame for the fiasco. Peter Strachan, the DfT’s head of major projects, even wrote to the bidders complaining of “stark inconsistencies” in the accounts of those involved.   Law firm Mishcon de Reya, which is representing Mingay, refused to comment on the situation other than to confirm that proceedings had been issued against the DfT.

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