Council admits review into 25 per cent councillors pay rise was rushed and flawed but insists findings should stand

QUITE why Cambridgeshire County Council insisted its flawed review of councillors’ allowances should take place during August remains unclear but documents released today reveal it needed to be conducted “at very short notice”.

QUITE why Cambridgeshire County Council insisted its flawed review of councillors’ allowances should take place during August remains unclear but documents released today reveal it needed to be conducted “at very short notice”.

The extraordinary revelation is contained in an email which chief executive Mark Lloyd agreed to be released after I met with him yesterday to try to understand the background to the ensuing debacle.

As legal advisers attempt to fudge a report to put the review back on track, it has also come to light that former chief constable Julie Spence was asked to join the review team but declined because of the short notice.

The critical email, from Wilma Wilkie, the head of democratic and members services was sent to members of the county council standards committee and pointed out that “all three political groups have agreed to commission a review of the council’s allowances scheme as a matter of urgency.”


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Quentin Baker, head of legal services and the man asked to undertake a review of the widely discredited review, insisted today there has been no “detriment to the public arising from the flaw itself” and it was unlikely “that a successful legal challenge could be brought against the subsequent implementation of the scheme itself

Mr Baker said although the process adopted for the appointments was flawed, the panel itself was unaware of this “procedural error and volunteered their time to undertake this task and with the assistance of Declan Hall did so assiduously.

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“The quality of the report is not in doubt.”

Ms Wilkie’s emails shows that Dr Declan Hall was the choice of all three leaders to conduct the review but then Mr Lloyd himself “approached a number of individuals to identify volunteers to join the panel”.

She told standards committee members that existing panel member, Penny Kingham, a magistrate, and three others – including Paul Richardson the editorial director of Archant’s Herts and Cambs newspapers and Ann Constantine, principal of Cambridge Regional College- were picked because of their experience and their availability during August.

One possible error by Ms Wilkie was to not convene the standards committee to consider the review panel although officials point out that Mr Lloyd was fully aware of her actions and could or should have intervened. He didn’t.

The standards committee was told that “given the calibre of the candidates and their willingness to take part at very short notice, we do not feel it necessary to undertake a formal interview and selection process.

“Given the time constraints, I would be grateful if you would confirm you are happy with this approach as soon as possible, at the latest by August 8 (six days after her email was sent)”.

Mr Baker will ask the committee to consider ratifying retrospectively the report which recommended 25 per cent rises,

He admitted there “may have been flaws in the process utilised” but once established the review panel had enacted correctly.

He says a review was envisaged in 2009 but nothing happened. However Mr Baker said the arrangements made then did not allow any other officer to go ahead two years later and start appointing a panel.

If the standards committee does allow the report to stand it won’t be the end of the matter. Over 1,000 signatures have already been obtained to support a bid by Lib Dems at the December meeting to have the review axed.

Ironically councillors made a further mistake since the increases they voted upon cannot be implemented until April at the earliest and not immediately as the report envisaged.

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