By Jamie O’Dell
Former Conservative Town Councillor for Stroud, Steve Dechan, was in the news again this weekend after the Sunday Times has revealed how Dechan has added a £250k holiday home in Cornwall and a house for his parents to his property portfolio that already consists of a £1.5 million house in the Painswick Valley. This comes in tandem with profits Dechan has made from the £276 million worth of government personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts he won through his company P14 Medical.
After initially deleting his Twitter account when details of his purchase of Dell Farm became public, Dechan has now delivered a stream of responses to these allegations on Twitter. Amongst these tweets, he referred to Times reporter Gabriel Pogrund as a ‘plain dick’ and Jo Maugham of the Good Law Project, who are investigating the procurement process of government PPE contracts, as a ‘nob’/’knob’.
To be clear, the PPE in this case was delivered and, despite there being no competitive tendering process in P14 winning their contracts, there is no evidence that we have seen of P14 medical using any VIP channels to win these. However, while questions around this procurement do remain, this is not the sole reason this incident has angered so many.
Back in the first lockdown, people and businesses from across Stroud came together to produce vital PPE for the NHS and care homes at no profit to themselves.
The Cotswold Printing Company made 30,000 face shields for the NHS at cost value and Stroud District councillor Paul Denney borrowed 3D printers from his work to produce PPE components in his living room. The sewing groups making NHS scrubs and distributing facemasks, the Long Table installing ‘Freezers of Love’ in hospitals and community spaces, or Doina Cornell, Leader of Stroud District Council, helping assemble face masks on her kitchen table.
So when Dechan compares himself to ‘undertakers, cardboard makers, electric cycle makers, sign writers, delivery drivers’, who are fellow ‘pandemic economic winners’, we can see how this ultimately boils down to one man creaming off pandemic profits and trying to justify his actions.
Again, we are not questioning the delivery of PPE or its quality. Rather the fact that this has come with no competitive tendering and from a company with no prior experience in PPE, while companies with this experience were ignored to the point of shipping British made PPE abroad.
At the start of this pandemic we were told that we were ‘all in it together’. Evidently this has not come to pass, however: as unemployment benefit claims across Stroud triple, only some of us have ended up surrounded by their very own 100 acres of Painswick Valley countryside.