Venue: Council Chamber
Contact: Bernie Carr
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest received at this point in the meeting.
Request for Extraordinary Council Meeting to discuss the External Audit report produced by Ernst and Young regarding Middlesbrough Council in which the Council's accounts were qualified
Request for Extraordinary Council Meeting from all Members of the Labour Group:
We, the undersigned, read with grave concern the External Audit report produced by Ernst and Young regarding Middlesbrough Council in which the Council’s accounts were qualified due to multiple serious governance failings.
We wish to request an urgent Extraordinary General Meeting of Middlesbrough Council to allow members to debate and discuss the External Audit report and the implications and consequences that flow from it. This includes the unprecedented decision of the Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer to refuse to sign off an Annual Governance statement and the request that has been made to central government for the Department of Levelling up and Housing and Communities to intervene in Middlesbrough Council’s governance processes.
We believe that a full and frank discussion of these issues by elected members is essential.
The Chair invited Councillor M Storey to outline the reasons for calling the Extraordinary Council meeting.
Councillor Storey stated that he believed that councillors needed the opportunity to discuss the recent audit report in a public forum. He stated that in his view, the report was scathing and damning.
Councillor Storey stated that the auditor’s report was unprecedented. The report highlighted examples of governance failings relating to the employment of a Mayoral Assistant, BOHO X and the purchase of unusable antibody tests. The report also highlighted issues in relation to declarations of interest in relation to the mayor.
One of the perceived failings included within the report, was that the Council did not have proper arrangements in place to ensure that the Council took properly informed decisions and deployed resources to achieve planned and sustainable outcomes for taxpayers and local people. Councillor Storey pointed out that this was not a function of back bench councillors, it was the function of the Executive and the Mayor.
Councillor Storey outlined the background to each of the examples of governance failings outlined in the report. He pointed out that the report did not make any reference to governance failures or audits in previous years. The Annual Governance Statement had not yet been signed off and the Chief Executive had asked central government to intervene at the Council.
Councillor Storey highlighted that the report did not refer to Standards complaints or wasted money investigating Standards complaints.
The Labour group had presented a comprehensive dossier of perceived governance failings to the auditors, central government, and the press. Councillor Storey advised that officers had faced difficult times over the last three years, working in a broken culture, but, going forward, it was important for officers and elected members to work together in a spirit of mutual respect and honesty.
Councillor Storey stated that the Labour group wished to work with officers and elected members, across the political divide, to deliver solutions and to ensure that the Council did not ever find itself in the situation it currently faced. Councillor Storey stated that the Labour group recognised the importance of a council that functioned, worked for local people, and that delivered value for money.
Councillor Storey stated that previously, almost all the Executive had resigned. He stated that the mayor must take responsibility for the situation that the Council currently faced. Councillor Storey stated that in his view, the issues currently facing the council could not be resolved by the current Mayor.
The mayor stated that it was very important that people were honest about the good and bad things that had occurred, and in his view, some of the issues highlighted by Councillor Storey had been misleading.
The mayor stated that the political context of the governance report should be discussed. He stated that the context was that real progress had been made, despite issues with Covid and the financial challenges that the Council faced. The mayor highlighted some of the things that the Council had ... view the full minutes text for item 22/32