THE future of Thurrock Council has been called into question, as commissioners are set to be given more power over the ailing authority reports the Local Democracy Reporter.
Following the publication of a damning interim report by commissioners investigating Thurrock’s £1.5billion debts and a £469million deficit, John Kent, leader of the Labour Group has questioned the council’s survival.
Commissioners from Essex County Council, appointed by the Government to undertake a Best Value Inspection into the authority, called for more powers to hire and fire senior managers as they questioned the council’s ability to implement a recovery plan.
Speaking after the letter to the Secretary of State was published on Tuesday, Mr Kent said: “Today’s announcement of wider government intervention in Thurrock is a further damning indictment of the Conservative record of running Thurrock.
“The interim Best Value Inspection letter highlights failures well beyond the Tory financial catastrophe.
“For instance, it criticises the Tories’ record of delivering big projects – such as the development of the New Town Hall, the delivery of the A13 widening scheme, the regeneration of Purfleet and the redevelopment of Stanford-Le-Hope station. All of which have been overseen by the current leader of the council.”
Mr Kent said a lack of transparency and “weaknesses in the council’s scrutiny function” had led to the catastrophe.
He added: “There is real doubt as to whether Thurrock Council, as we know it now, can survive. What isn’t in doubt is that the council needs strong and competent leadership, and those that have sat in cabinet for the last six and a half years, as this disaster has unfolded, should have no significant role in the future.”
In his letter Essex County Council, chief executive Gavin Jones said the council was facing “extensive efficiency savings and there would be a “rapid reduction in the scope of local services”.
He added: “Many services, which have been relatively well funded over the past decade may, as a consequence, be either ceased or, where statutorily underpinned, equipped to do little more than provide a minimum level of service for the foreseeable future.”
The commissioners are expected to deliver their final report on February 17.