The council appointed Quentin Baker as an Independent Monitoring Officer in line with the statutory recommendations to help the council improve governance.
Mr Baker attended a meeting of the General Purposes Committee (GPC) on Wednesday 26 January to provide members with an update on progress.
Since his appointment in December 2021, Mr Baker confirmed to members that he has been focusing on the areas of concern raised within the external Auditors report and to understand what happened and why. He is also working to support the resolution of the outstanding grievances to ensure these matters are concluded.
To assist with this process, Mr Baker has been speaking to a number of Councillors, Officers, external partners and external lawyers and reviewing documentation.
Some initial observations were shared at the meeting to update the committee members on the findings so far. This included confirmation that there had been a serious breakdown in relationships of the senior management team which had resulted in costly and time-consuming internal dispute. He had also reviewed evidence corroborating the concerns set out in the external Auditor’s report. The process is ongoing and further evidence is being gathered, with a view to producing final observations within the next month or so which will be shared more widely upon conclusion of this activity.
In tandem with this activity a recovery plan is also being developed to help the council improve. Mr Baker outlined some of the suggested proposals which include: reviewing the council’s constitution to ensure greater clarity between the role and involvement of officers and members, proposing the introduction of coaching and mentoring to the senior team and a corporate management restructure, and creating more mechanisms for council staff to provide ongoing feedback via surveys and a new panel.
Progress will continue to be reported back to the General Purposes Committee and shared with Councillors, staff and the wider public.