“Its scrutiny, Mayor, but not as we know it”

4th September, 2011

Interesting events at the second meeting of the Overview Select Committee?

On behalf of the committee I had asked Cllr Veejay Patel to attend to explain why he agreed to the redundancy of Chief Finance back in April and to comment on the scrapped Myplace project for a youth centre in the former Haymarket Theatre. No show ‘he had a cold’. I think it is important that we should understand why the Chief Finance Officer has been made redundant, especially as the council has now re-employed him. Perhaps we shall in due course.

We also requested Cllr Russell to attend to explain why she had blocked staff from transferring full time to scrutiny, preventing the resourcing of scrutiny promised by the city mayor. Again no show. Perhaps more cold….feet? or did the Mayor tell her not come?

Later in the meeting we learnt that Peter Soulsby had intervened to prevent officers from the finance dept from attending the meeting. Despite a specific request to have them there, and their agreement to attend the meeting.

This is hardly front page news I hear you say, and you’d be right.  However we have heard from Soulsby over and over again that propriety, openness, inclusiveness and robust scrutiny are highly valued and in his view were lacking of late in Leicester.  He therefore gave assurances throughout his campaign and since his election that scrutiny will be independent, transparent, robust, and fully resourced.

Well, the last meeting raised serious questions about Soulsby’s commitment to any of these principles. It’s hardly independent if the Mayor vetoes reports and stops officers from attending. It’s hardly transparent if he does not explain that he has done this. It can never be robust if we are denied the information with which to scrutinise. And so far scrutiny is not properly resourced, although the committee did welcome the assurance from the mayor that this would be resolved as quickly as possible.

The Committee agreed that in future finance officers as well as legal advisors will attend every meeting. Making it clear that it is not the mayor who decides who should attend. There will be a special meeting of the Committee in October to consider the budget as the issues are so important and it was clear that no progress had been made since the meeting a month ago which identified an emerging £5million black hole in the savings requirements. The committee seemed relieved to have this special opportunity to at last look at some financial detail given that the financial report at the meeting was one and a half sides of words – and hardly a figure in sight.

More to follow on the discussion about Prospect Leicester-shire and Myplace.


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  1. Kulgan of Crydee

    6th September, 2011

    Scrutiny is important, particularly due to Labour’s overwhelming majority in Leicester. This blog seems to suggest that Sir Peter Soulsby has things to hide already. Whether he has or not, the term ‘Mud Sticks’ would seem to apply with this post.

    Whether the reason for this blog is to ensure correct scrutiny or just sour grapes I am not sure.

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