“The council needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror and restore local councillors and the residents we represent to the heart of the decision-making process”

Cllr Jane Pothecary

Anger over CEO’s decision to ignore councillors’ vote

A LEADING Thurrock councillor has described an impasse over democratic process that led to condemnation of the council’s chief officer as “bitterly disappointing”.

Lyn Carpenter

Labour group leader Cllr Jane Pothecary spoke up after CEO Lyn Carpenter forced through her decision to increase the responsibility of a senior member of her staff – despite a vote of councillors vetoing her recommendation at last Wednesday’s meeting of the full council.

Yesterday (Monday, 24 June) the council announced that Roger Harris would serve as interim director of the council’s troubled children’s services department in addition to his other director responsibilities.

The move had been opposed by a number of councillors who said his workload would make it impossible to safeguard children in council care and the appointment and associated reorganisation of up to 75 per cent of the council’s services had been done without any reference to elected members.

A majority of councillors rejected her plan.

Now Cllr Pothercary has spoken up to say: “It’s bitterly disappointing that we have reached this point. What we saw on Wednesday was a complete breakdown in the relationship between officers and elected members.

“Councillors from all parties are angry, and rightly so, that they were forced into a position where they felt pressured into approving a doubling up of a role as crucial as director of children’s services with a number of other big areas of responsibility.

“Rather than rubber stamp what we judged to be a bad decision for protecting Thurrock’s children, we rejected the proposal.

“Now it has been pushed through using delegated powers for a period of six months. It should never have reached this point. At every turn, democratically-elected councillors, who are accountable to the people of Thurrock, were shut out of this decision and treated as an afterthought.

“The Labour Group have raised concerns repeatedly in recent months about the council’s lack of consultation, engagement and democratic accountability. As elected councillors, we have felt increasingly sidelined as decisions have been taken without us, our voices ignored and our ability to challenge the council’s actions undermined.

“This cannot continue. Things must change.

“The council needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror and restore local councillors and the residents we represent to the heart of the decision-making process. That’s the point of democracy after all.”