Councillors reject children’s service director plan as CEO is roundly condemned for disrespect for democracy and treating councillors with contempt

Cllr Shane Hebb addresses the meeting.

THURROCK Council’s Chief Executive looked a forlorn figure in the civic chamber this evening when her attempt to save face on a recommendation to appoint a new director of children’s services failed.

Lyn Carpenter had attempted to merge the authority’s children’s services department with other departments including adult social care, education and housing.

She wrote a report put on the agenda last week for tonight’s (Wednesday, 19 June).

Its publication caused a storm of cross party concern as her plans had completely by-passed consultation with elected members and after last minute meetings this week, she was the architect of a new recommendation, suggesting an interim appointment of an over-arching director.

It was given to members by email in mid afternoon today and Labour members asked for a personal briefing from Ms Carpenter, meaning the meeting tonight was briefly suspended while it happened.

Lyn Carpenter

However, she failed to win the majority of them over.

The process by which members had got to tonight’s meeting was roundly condemned from all points in the council chamber, with councillor after councillor slamming the lack of democracy.

Conservative group deputy leader Cllr Shane Hebb described the situation as Thurrock Council’s low point but said he would have to support the recommendation – under duress.

Across the chamber, the process was criticised – though it was unanimous that there was no criticism about the officer, Roger Harris, earmarked for the director post. His professionalism, commitment to Thurrock and ability across a wide range of sectors was applauded.

Members across the chamber were given a free vote by their groups and in the end, by a narrow majority the proposal was rejected. Almost all the speakers across the chamber roundly condemned the process Ms Carpenter had implemented, which flew in the face of many other senior officer appointments.

That means the government may step in to take charge of children’s services while an alternative is found by the council unless a solution can be found and a director appointed by Sunday.

A full report to follow with comments from councillors.