THE FORMER leader of Thurrock Council, cllr John Kent has questioned the process by which a new senior director (and former colleague of the chief executive) was appointed without any councillor interviewing her.
Sharon Bayliss was appointed as the new director of commercial services last month.
This new role will involve income generation and helping the council become more financially self-sustainable in the future.
The appointment was confirmed at a recent meeting of the General Services Committee.
Thurrock Conservative bosses, cllrs Rob Geldhill and Garry Hague attended the meeting along with UKIP’s Graham Snell and Roy Jones and independent councillor, Colin Churchman.
As Labour’s John Kent and Barbara Rice couldn’t attend, cllr Kent contacted the council with a series of concerns regarding the recruitment process.
In the meeting, the chief executive of Thurrock Council, Lyn Carpenter, delivered a robust and detailed defence of the recruitment process.
After the meeting, cllr Kent has continued to express his concerns about the whole process.
Cllr Kent said: "The appointment of Sharon Bayliss as Thurrock Council’s part time Director of Commercial Services has thrown up several concerns – but I must begin by making it clear that I welcome the creation of the role and the completion of the chief executive’s restructuring.
I do, however, believe that it is for elected councillors to appoint council directors. Conservative and UKIP councillors have combined to rubber stamp the council chief executive’s preferred candidate without interviewing or meeting that candidate – or even seeing her application or C.V.
The committee was told there were nine applicants for the job but not who the other eight applicants were.
We are told three applicants were shortlisted and interviewed, by officers, but we aren’t told who the other shortlisted candidates were or why they were not recommended for appointment.
I have little doubt that Ms Bayliss can do the job – after all she has been in Thurrock for the best part of a year already – but we really do need to be sure we are appointing the very best person for the job.
Her company, The Ochre Organisation, has been billing the council every other month since November – which throws up another issue as the chief executive told the General Services Committee that Ms Bayliss had been in Thurrock for only around four and a half months.
I am concerned that the chief executive is clear that she knew Sharon Bayliss and has worked closely with her in the past – in fact one of her very first actions as chief executive was to appoint her on a consultancy basis – yet she did not step away from the interview process.
I also knew somebody who had applied for the post. The Standards regime that councillors work to, clearly, means I would not be able to take part in the appointment process had they been shortlisted.
I don’t see why council officers should be exempt from such a standards regime.
Although the chief executive was clear in that she knew Ms Bayliss, she did make the following statement.
Ms Carpenter said: "She and I worked together in a previous authority a number of years ago."
But according to their Linkedin pages, Ms Bayliss worked at Hammersmith and Fulham Council until January 2015 and Ms Carpenter worked at the same authority until September 2015.
YT did ask Thurrock Council to clear up any confusion but they issued a line line reply.
"They worked together for a number of years".
The appointment came during a period of time when it could be said that the former Netball international, Ms Carpenter, exerted a vice-like grip on communications coming out of the council. Or as they say in sporting circles, she "parked the bus."
YT did ask the leader of Thurrock UKIP, Graham Snell for his observations but he has yet to reply.
Following the appointment, Leader of the Council, Cllr Rob Gledhill, said: “The recruitment process was thorough and competitive, and we believe we have the best person for the job.
“Sharon Bayliss will bring valuable experience with her from working in other successful councils. She has been able to generate impressive amounts of income in all of her previous roles.
“It is crucial for the council to be sustainable and self-reliant when it comes to generating income to fund council services. This appointment shows a positive step for Thurrock Council becoming more commercial and business like.”