An MP has said the appointment of commissioners into Sandwell Council is “political prejudice”, adding it was a burden of the residents of the Black Country borough.
It comes as the government has appointed commissioners into Sandwell Council following governance failures, multiple financial scandals and political infighting.
The Labour-led authority will be the third council in England and Wales to be placed under special measures and joins other councils such as Liverpool and Slough.
This is despite a Peer Review Challenge report, commissioned by the Local Government Association, and designed for councils to identify improvement areas, stating bad behaviour at Sandwell was “only in pockets”.
What has Mr Spellar said about the appointment of commissioners for Sandwell Council in his own words?
John Spellar MP said: “This is blind political prejudice which completely ignores the positive report both from independent auditors Grant Thornton and the Local Government Association.
“It acknowledged that Sandwell is already well on the way back to being a successful council that delivers.
“I notice the minister didn’t dare reveal how much these commissioners will be paid, and the public should be told.
“This is just another level of costly bureaucracy which will have to be paid for by the council’s taxpayers of Sandwell. Local Tories who have supported this should be ashamed of themselves.”
What actions are the commissioners taking at Sandwell Council?
Under the commissioners request, Sandwell Council will be made to create an improvement plan and report to the commissioners every six months.
The council will also be expected to pay for the commissioner’s “reasonable expenses”, according to a statement released yesterday.
They will be in place until March 2024. The commissioners will be led by Kim Bromley-Derry CBE, the current interim chief executive at Sandwell, who has been leading the council since August 2021.
It is unclear if Kim-Bromley-Derry will continue to hold both roles as interim chief executive of Sandwell council, and now commissioner.
What have Sandwell councillors said about the appointment of the commissioners?
Councillor Luke Giles (Lab, Wednesbury North), said: “The government [has] decided to appoint as a commissioner, the man we’d already picked to lead the council through these difficult times.
“The major difference is that this latest move will cost Sandwell more than a million pounds, money we could have spent on essential services and on improving parks and green spaces.”
But councillor William Gill (Cons, Great Bridge), said: “Politically motivated? Tell that to the SEND parents and children who were failed by the council, tell that to residents who are waiting months for repairs and tell that to residents who have 4.99% more tax because of your incompetent governance and mismanagement of the books.
“I’m sure this wasn’t news for the Labour party and if we are being honest if the biggest concern they have when this news breaks is how is it going to impact the ballot boxes, then I’d say they need to get their priorities in order and focus on delivering rather than their pocket.”
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