A memo leaked to the Local Government Chronicle says government advisers have suggested sending in commissioners to intervene at Thanet council.
The memo by staff at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities suggests using best value powers – allowing central government to intervene if a local authority is not making arrangements that are economic, efficient, and effective.
Only four councils since 2010 have previously been subject to this kind of intervention -Northamptonshire, Tower Hamlets, Rotherham and Doncaster – but now government is looking at use of the powers at Thanet and Northumberland and extend action at Liverpool.
The memo to Secretary of State Michael Gove says the the councils are “coming to crunch point soon”.
The LGC also reports that DLUHC’s memo says it is “preparing advice on the wider issues raised by the council’s external governance review, including on the potential use of best value powers.”
Top officers exit
The news comes as the last remaining officer of Thanet council’s senior management team has been suspended, meaning an unprecedented ‘clear out’ of the entire senior management team.
Gavin Waite, who is Director of Operational Services, is understood to have been suspended from his post on Monday (June 13).
The suspension follows the announcement on June 9 of chief executive Madeline Homer’s exit from Thanet council with an understood £327,000 severance payment.
The council’s Section 151 Officer and Director of Finance Chris Blundell has been appointed as Acting Deputy Chief Executive and took over Madeline Homer’s duties as Head of Paid Service with immediate effect.
His appointment is a short term arrangement to ensure the council meets its obligations to provide the statutory role of Head of Paid Service until an interim Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service is identified. An appointment is expected to be made at the next Full Council meeting on Thursday 14 July.
Report on authority failings
Madeline Homer’s exit came on the heels of an independent report into failings at the authority, which included ‘serious breakdown’ in relationships of the top management team and the use of disciplinary action against staff trying to raise complaints.
Last year external auditors Grant Thornton issued a report branding relationships between the authority’s top officers as in “serious breakdown” and listing a catalogue of failures within the council, including attempting to discredit criticism in independent reports; draining finances due to disciplinary and tribunal actions and causing significant reputational harm to those involved in prolonged grievance processes.
Thanet District Council unanimously agreed to Grant Thornton’s four statutory recommendations – including bringing in an independent Monitoring Officer.
A summary version of the report by Independent Monitoring Officer, Quentin Baker, was published last month and highlighted concerns such as the personal relationship between then-chief exec Madeline Homer and Gavin Waite; the hostile relationship between the top four senior officers and the pay out of more than £1.5m for redundancy or employment tribunal deals between 2015-2021..
On two occasions disciplinary proceedings were launched against members of the top management team -one of which resulted in a serious disciplinary sanction against Monitoring Officer Tim Howes, leading to his dismissal in April of this year and the other ending with a public apology and £280k severance deal for deputy chief Tim Willis who left the council last October.
A leaked document showed Mr Willis had lodged a grievance against Madeline Homer with accusations of systematic bullying, intimidation and victimisation.
Council leader request to government
Last September the situation at the council prompted TDC leader Ash Ashbee to ask for central government step in to deal with the culture at the council by “request(ing) the assistance of DHCLG to, in the public interest, regularise the governance of TDC”.
The letter, initially sent to Michael Gove MP, came amid on-going disciplinary and grievance proceedings at the authority which had, at that point, racked up a legal bill of more than £733,000. At that time the request was denied but the leaked memo suggests intervention is now being considered.
Sending Central Government in to fight corruption in a Local Authority is akin to sending Jimmy Savile into a school to fight child abuse.
Blind leading the blind comes to mind.
Oh I don’t know, TDC’s regime rivals that of North Korea!
And you think Central Government are any better? As corrupt and useless as our local politicians and LA staff are, they are positively glowing in reputation when compared with Gove, Johnson, Dorries, Sunak, Patel etc. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trust National or Local government any further than I could throw them.
Patel for PM!
You really must get help for your Pillockism Peter, its getting worse!
Not before time!
I don’t see it as corruption its down to bad management and it all started at the employment of M Homer as the Chief executive of the council and from then on nobody has had the balls / guts until now to do the right thing and deal with the detritus and ousting it starting with the CEO. We really need to thank Councilor Ash Ashby for starting the ball rolling ( and no I didn’t vote tory or Labour but always vote)what she did may not have pleased some people but something needed doing and she needed help as it had to be done properly, although I think the government interfere to much in local authorities /Councils the fact it may occur in Thanet’s shows how bad it has got and if its going to improve the councils working in all aspects will be a good thing.
There were more than a few sugestions of ongoing corruption in thanet , from staff at EKH in rspect of maintenance and repair contracts tdc entered. Having seen some of the invoices for works that were either not done or done very badly , i can quite believe it. No whistle blowing from EKH staff as they wanted jobs in the respective councils when housing went back in house. Either corruption or a complete lack of dilligence/ability/effort.
long overdue – but like the previous post , i feel these paople mark thier own homework , and we will never get to the bottom of the corruption around here
The only people even more incompetent than TDC are going to sort it out. Heaven help us.
In the late 70s and early 80s ,a friend of mine ,who was a councillor at TDC tried to get the fraud squad to investigate TDC,into allegations of fraud and bribery on two occasions,if I remember TED closed ranks ,he was hounded out ,by the top members ,so nothing changes ,and nothing will
Just when you think the only way is up – you hear central government is coming.
Bodge it and U turns, law breaking and out dated rhetoric…
The last thing Thanet needs more of.
Leaked to pile a bit of pressure on TDC to encourage it to sort things out , also to show that the gov is keeping an eye on things.