PROPOSED new directions on the government intervention at Thurrock Council have been received by the authority in a devastating report.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has today (24 January) said he is “minded to” give the Thurrock Commissioners additional responsibilities for the management and governance of the council.
He said: “The challenges facing Thurrock Council are unprecedented and will require extensive work over many years to resolve. The Authority are at the beginning of a long journey to improve its finance and governance functions, and the department stands ready to support Commissioners in any way necessary as part of this vital work”
Among the recommendations are:
The Secretary of State is minded to issue further Directions to permit the Commissioners to exercise powers over:
- All functions associated with the governance, scrutiny and transparency of strategic decision making by the Authority to ensure compliance with the Best Value Duty. This will include oversight of an audit of the Authority’s governance.
- All functions associated with the Authority’s operating model and redesign of council services to achieve value for money and financial sustainability.
- The appointment, suspension and dismissal of staff in the top three tiers of the organisation, including powers to determine the process for making these appointments and dismissals, and to design a new officer structure.
- The development, oversight and operation of an effective performance management framework for senior officers.
The Secretary of State is minded to make further Directions to the Authority, instructing Thurrock Council to undertake the following actions to the satisfaction of Commissioners:
- To prepare, produce and implement an enhanced improvement and recovery plan (building on the existing improvement plan).
- To take steps to ensure that the role of Accountable Body to the Thames Freeport is exercised to the satisfaction of the Commissioners. This should be reflected in the improvement and recovery plan.
- To undertake any action that Commissioners may reasonably require to avoid, so far as practicable, incidents of poor governance that would, in the Commissioners’ reasonable opinion, give rise to the risk of the Authority failing to comply with its best value duty.
There will now be a ten-day “period of representation” when the council and local people can make comments and help shape the council’s plans.
The council has already revealed it is in a very serious financial position, and will have to take urgent, concerted, and long-term action to get back to financial sustainability.
Today’s letter and reports are the first time the council has seen in detail the early findings and conclusions of the Commissioners and their best value inspection team.
Thurrock’s Acting Chief Executive, Ian Wake, said: “We have been working very closely and cooperatively with the Government Commissioners and this will continue as their remit expands.
“The council is in a much better place than a few months ago at the start of the intervention, thanks to the hard work of our staff, Members, and the support of the Commissioners.
“We’ve put an initial Improvement and Recovery Plan in place that reflects the Commissioner’s first report, and we are taking action to deal with our finances and changing the overall culture of the organisation.
“But we have been clear too that there are some very hard decisions to be made as we deal with our finances and agree how we can maintain our services to local people.”
Leader of the Council, Cllr. Mark Coxshall, said: “I made it very clear from the start of this that we will be open and transparent about the scope and impact of our financial position and honest about how we must transform the council’s approach and management. This latest news does not change that.
“I want to reiterate that my focus is on what matters to local people and to rebuild this council to provide efficient, effective and affordable services.
“I welcome The Secretary of State’s commitment to giving the residents of Thurrock to their say on his proposals and I am keen to encourage local people to get involved in shaping the future of the council and the area.”