With one fell swoop councillors told they can kiss goodbye for now to prospect of 25 per cent pay rise

PUBLISHED: 19:26 01 November 2011

Emergency meeting of standards committee of Cambridgeshire County Council called in response to the councillors' allowances debacle

Emergency meeting of standards committee of Cambridgeshire County Council called in response to the councillors' allowances debacle


WITH one fell swoop the standards committee of Cambridgeshire County Council demolished the report that led to councillors awarding themselves a 25 per cent pay increase.

"“The Standards Committee reviewed the appointments process and concluded that it was sufficiently flawed that they were unable to ratify the appointments to the independent remuneration panel.
“This means a new panel will be formed and a new report carried out.
“All three main parties asked for the report to be carried out and councils are required periodically to review member allowances.
“The Standards Committee found flaws in the process taken by officers to bring the report to Full Council and therefore should not have been debated and agreed last month by Council.
“Cambridgeshire County Council Chief Executive Mark Lloyd has apologised to the leaders of the Council’s political groups for the mistakes that were made.
“It is intended that a new independent panel is formed and a report is brought to the next practical meeting.

Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman tonight

In a blistering assault that struck at the very heart of the council’s decision making core, the committee unanimously rejected the findings of an independent panel that had recommended the rises.

It was, unquestionably, one of the most inglorious of occasions Shire Hall, Cambridge, had witnessed.

Not even the wiles of Quentin Baker, director of legal services and monitoring officer, could rescue any remnant of respectability from a process the committee determined was flawed.

It means the £5,000 paid to Dr Declan Hall to chair the panel will be lost but this will more than be compensated for by the £165,000 a year saved by rejection of the report.

"“This report was called for by all three main party leaders and is something the council needs to carry out periodically. It is very clear from the findings of the Standards Committee that mistakes have been made in the process of bringing this to full council and the chief executive has apologised to the leaders of the council’s political groups for this.
“Above all the electorate needs to have confidence in the process and what we do as councillors. That is why I am calling for this to go through the proper process and make sure our residents will have enough time to consider any future report.
“Making sure we give residents every opportunity to become councillors and break down barriers to prevent this is a very important issue both locally and nationally.”"

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader Nick Clarke

Mr Baker was forced to tell councillors tonight by email that the committee

“concluded that the flaws in the process used were such that it was unable to ratify the appointments to the panel.”

He said: “As a consequence, the recent decision of full council, purporting to make a new scheme of members’ allowances, is defective as it was made without first having regard to the recommendations of an Independent Remuneration Panel.

“Arrangements will be made to commence a new process of review with a view to bringing recommendations, regarding members’ allowances, to a future meeting of full council at the earliest opportunity.”

County councillor Victor Lucas, a standards committee member, said: “The process ha got to be to seen to be seen to be whiter than white.

“I believe we are failing our community and that process has not been followed.”

Cllr Kevin Reynolds said: “We would be extremely unwise to go ahead and ratify the recommendation.”

Former Lib Dem councillor Clare Blair addressed the meeting to complain that the panel which recommended the review had been brought together improperly.

She felt the committee has now done “exactly the right thing.

“They needed to act to restore public confidence in the process. This is absolutely right.”

The controversy broke after I questioned the legitimacy of the independent panel which, under the council’s rules, should have been authorised through the standards committee. It wasn’t. It turned out that a senior officer of the council working with chief executive Mark Lloyd had put together the panel but had not gained the necessary authorisations from the standards committee to do so.

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