The leader of Eden Council has denied overriding due process in the appointment of a chief executive to succeed Rose Rouse, ahead of a no confidence vote proposed against her by Tory councillors, to be heard on Thursday.
Virginia Taylor – who was accused of appointing an interim chief executive without council approval — said that since Mrs Rouse left the authority by mutual agreement at the end of August, the council had “a statutory duty to have a head of paid service in place”.
“I have acted properly and within my powers as leader, and, I believe, in the best interests of the authority, in exploring with other politicians some of the options for how this role can be provided in the interim,” she said.
“The charges, by members of the Conservative group of Eden District Council, are entirely speculative, without grounds or evidence, and I refute them utterly.
“I have indeed set out a potential interim solution, which arose in informal political conversation, but I have neither the intention nor the power to bypass due process in making any decision or appointment.
“I note that the Conservative group themselves propose a potential solution, so they cannot reasonably object to my doing the same.”
Tory councillors told the Herald that they had been in discussions with a retired former council officer who was willing to return to fulfil the chief executive role, however, they believed Ms Taylor had already given the temporary position to Carlisle City Council chief executive Jason Gooding.
This was refuted by Carlisle City Council, though it also confirmed discussions on the possibility had taken place.
Eden Council will consider at Thursday’s meeting amending the constitution to make its director of people and place Les Clark the deputy head of paid service, so that if such a circumstance ever arose again, there would be immediate arrangements in place for a continuous head of paid service.
The council’s human resources and appeals committee agreed at a meeting on Wednesday, to commission a £1,700 report from North West Employers on its options for appointing a chief executive.
Once that work has been completed, the committee will then have two months to consider and explore the options presented to them by the independent advisory group for local authorities.
Mrs Taylor’s full statement says:
I was surprised to be accused of overriding due process in the matter of the recruitment of Eden Council’s chief executive/head of paid service.
The charges, by members of the Conservative group of EDC, are entirely speculative, without grounds or evidence, and I refute them utterly.
I have indeed set out a potential interim solution which arose in informal political conversation, but I have neither the intention nor the power to bypass due process in making any decision or appointment.
I note that the Conservative group themselves propose a potential solution, so they cannot reasonably object to my doing the same.
The former chief executive and designated head of paid service left the authority at the end of August.
The council has a statutory duty to have a head of paid service in place and I have acted properly and within my powers as leader, and, I believe, in the best interests of the authority in exploring with other politicians some of the options for how this role can be provided in the interim.
It is very important to recognise that no decision about this has been made yet.
The decision to appoint a head of paid service, either in the interim or longer term will be made through the proper council processes.
This will involve our human resources and appeals committee considering the options available before making a recommendation to full council.
The first of these meetings of human resources and appeals committee has been arranged for 16th September.
There was a need for confidentiality since one proposal (for a potential joint chief executive/head of paid service with a neighbouring authority) affected EDC councillors and those of the neighbouring authority equally; therefore both sets of councillors needed to hear at the same time.
It would be annoying for either set of councillors to feel the other knew something they did not.
However, I recognised there was a ‘need to know’ and discussed the matter with political group leaders, all of whom indicated at that time that they were content.
Later the chairman of human resources and appeals called an informal meeting, no formal meeting having yet been called. It is not within my power to call or suppress council committee meetings and I cannot comment on the fact that a formal meeting was yet to be arranged.
Conservative members accused me in that meeting of somehow attempting to bypass due process which, I reiterate, is neither an intention nor a possibility.
There was an agreement between the councils concerned about when the announcement of the possibility would be made: that announcement included a statement that due process would be followed in both councils.
This plan fell owing to the actions of the Eden Conservative group. I am saddened that embarrassment and difficulty has been caused by this.
The process of making this appointment is indeed a formal human resources and appeals and council one and I reiterate that I had and have neither the intention nor the power to override that or interfere on any level.