The independent monitoring officer appointed at Thanet Council has set out some proposals that may be included in a recovery plan being developed to help the local authority improve its governance.
Quentin Baker, who is Chief Legal Officer at Hertfordshire County Council, was appointed to the role at Thanet in December 2021.
The appointment of an independent monitoring officer was one of four statutory recommendations made by Grant Thornton, Thanet’s external auditors, in a report issued in October 2021 under Section 24 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 that identified "key deficiencies" in governance processes.
Mr Baker told Thanet’s General Purposes Committee at a recent meeting that proposals in the finalised recovery plan might include:
- reviewing the council’s constitution to ensure greater clarity between the role and involvement of officers and members
- the introduction of coaching and mentoring to the senior team
- a corporate management restructure, and
- creating more mechanisms for council staff to provide ongoing feedback via surveys and a new panel.
Mr Baker told the committee that since his appointment he had been focusing on the areas of concern raised within the external auditors’ report and to understand what happened and why.
He added that he was also working to support the resolution of the outstanding grievances to ensure these matters were concluded.
To assist with this process, he had spoken to a number of councillors, officers, external partners and external lawyers and reviewing documentation.
Mr Baker told the committee that his initial observations included confirmation that there had been a serious breakdown in relationships of the senior management team which had resulted in costly and time-consuming internal dispute. He had also reviewed evidence corroborating the concerns set out in the external auditors’ report.
This process is said to be ongoing and further evidence is being gathered, with a view to producing final observations within the next month or so which will be shared more widely upon conclusion of this activity.
Progress will continue to be reported back to the General Purposes Committee and shared with councillors, staff and the wider public, Thanet said.