Auditor recommends private sector team take over Walsall

13 Jun 02
Walsall Borough Council is almost certain to be the second authority to suffer direct takeover by the government after an Audit Commission report this week castigated its continuing financial problems and culture of 'fear and distrust'.

14 June 2002

The commission recommended direct intervention on the lines of that imposed on the London Borough of Hackney last year. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who now has responsibility for local government, is expected to accept that recommendation.

Council chief executive Hardial Bhogal and his managers are likely to be replaced by a private sector team, which will be brought in to sort out failings in social services, education, regeneration and council management.

The council was the subject of a damning corporate governance report in January. It was given until the end of April to demonstrate change, but will now be under the direction of the private team for up to two years.

The commission's supervisory board, which was appointed in January, will continue to operate augmented by representatives from the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills.

Sir Andrew Foster, chair of the commission, said: 'Our action is defending the right of local people to decent services.

'Walsall has had six months and substantial support to tackle its failings. It is disappointing that radical steps were not taken sooner.

'This is an area which has very real deprivation and there are absolutely explicit examples of people not being well served. I hope the council will see intervention as a chance to start afresh.'

Walsall is run by a joint Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration. It has an annual budget of £400m and 11,500 staff.


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