BREAKING NEWS EXCLUSIVE: Cambridgeshire County Council admits its blunder over pay rise for councillors.
CAMBRIDGESHIRE County Council admitted tonight it had blundered over its vote to give councillors a 25 per cent pay rise.
A statement issued a few minutes ago confirmed the contention I had made to them earlier this week that the county council broke its own constitution when it set up a review panel to look at allowances.
Under the council’s constitution the appointment of the panel – and its chairman- should have been made by the Cambridgeshire County Council Standards Committee.
It wasn’t. Instead the suggestion of a review was channelled through council leader Nick Clarke and the members invited to join the panel by chief executive Mark Lloyd. The council is obliged to meet periodically to review allowances and was required to do so.
However they’ve got it wrong.
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To paper over the cracks, and quickly, the council has called for an urgent meeting of the standards committee which they expect to retrospectively agree the review body’s recommendations.
The situation was further complicated by the fact that no one has been able to contact the chairman of the standards committee is tell him what’s been going.
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The revelations will be embarrassing for Cllr Clarke who prompted the councillors’ review. However he has already been under fire this week for the speed at which the review was conducted.
On Tuesday night I realised the council’s constitution required the councillors’ allowances review to go through the standards committee but a trawl of meetings of the past two years showed the subject had not been raised.
A council spokesman, pressed since 9am on Wednesday to clarify the procedures, finally issued the following statement at 4.35pm today.
“To provide confidence and clarity about the procedures surrounding the setting up of the independent review panel a special meeting of the Council’s Standards Committee will be held,” the statement said.
“This will review the procedures taken and asked to ratify the process.
“Authorities are legally required to periodically review members’
“The three main group leaders agreed that a review of members’
allowances should take place following consultation with their groups.
They then played no further part in the process, only to give evidence to the review panel. “The panel was chaired by the independent expert Dr Declan Hall, who has carried out many of these reviews across the country. Panel members were chosen as well regarded members of the community.
“As is common practice a member of the media was also asked to be a panel member for their ability and reputation of holding public bodies to account.”
In the event the council’s speed in approving the rises could have waited: since Tuesday officers have taken legal advice and earlier date for implementing the pay increases in April next year.