THE Government has sanctioned a request by commissioners overseeing Thurrock Council to be granted more powers reports the Local Democracy Reporter.
Commissioners for Essex County Council, who are carrying out a best value inspection of the council, called for powers to hire and fire senior management after declaring the council’s position far worse than thought.
The council has a £469million deficit following a string of bad investments made with money borrowed from other councils, including Castle Point Council.
The Government recommended that a commissioner is appointed to act as managing director of the authority and sets out proposals for increased powers for the commissioners in making decisions about employment matters related to senior managers, the council’s staff structure and “operating model and functions relating to scrutiny and transparency of strategic decision making”.
A letter to the council from the Department of Levelling, Housing and Communities, said: “The Secretary of State has concluded that Thurrock is failing in its best value duty, both in terms of the known financial issues, and in relation to its governance functions.”
It adds: “The first finance commissioner report sets out the unprecedented scale and complexity of the financial challenge facing Thurrock Council as a result of the Authority’s failed commercial investment strategy. It notes that Thurrock have produced an improvement plan, but that significant further work is needed to accelerate the pace at which the authority grips issues, and to develop and resource the plan to make it operational.”
Ian Wake, acting chief executive of Thurrock Council, said: “On behalf of the council I accept and welcome these proposals. We are at the beginning of a long journey to make improvements to the way Thurrock Council operates, particularly in our finance and governance functions, but we are already making strong progress.
“Thurrock Council has a committed workforce that has often gone above and beyond what is expected of them to provide services to our residents, despite financial issues not of their making. The new support and additional leadership promised by the Government will help us to carry on this good work.
“We will continue to work closely with the commissioners and government to create improvement at Thurrock Council. A great deal of work has already taken place and there is a great deal more to do.”
Mark Coxshall, leader of Thurrock Council added: “I have discussed the recommendations with council officers and councillors across all parties.
“We remain resolute that we will deliver improvements through our work with the commissioners and the delivery of our comprehensive improvement and recovery plan.”