Government gives Hull another chance to improve

26 Sep 02
Kingston upon Hull City Council has been ordered to go back to the drawing board after Nick Raynsford rejected the crisis-hit authority's recovery plan.

27 September 2002

The local government minister said he was not convinced that the authority, which was the subject of a damning Audit Commission report in July, had the capacity to deal with its own problems.

But Raynsford has given Hull one more chance to come up with a plan of action that addresses the 74 areas of concern identified by the inspection team. The council has been given until December 15 to resubmit its proposals for improvement.

Raynsford acknowledged that the Liberal Democrat administration, which took control of the authority in May after a 60-year reign by Labour, was providing strong leadership that was backed up by the new senior management team. But he emphasised the scale of the task facing Hull.

'I have noticed the progress that has been made and the positive attitude of the council in facing up to the challenges,' he said.

'However, I believe it is too early to reach a conclusion as to whether the council is able to devise and successfully implement proposals for change that will produce the improvements that are so urgently needed.'

The Audit Commission report identified widespread financial mismanagement, vicious political infighting and a culture of bullying within the authority. It said Hull had 'lived beyond its means' for years and accused it of squandering a £263m windfall from the sale of its stake in Kingston Communications.

Raynsford has told the council to set up a partnership liaison board to advise the council and give it 'strategic direction'. It is likely to have around 12 members, four of whom will be appointed by him.

He has also ordered a monitoring team comprising senior civil servants to be set up within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to oversee Hull's activities and report back to him on the progress made. And the ODPM is to appoint an independent auditor to go through the authority's books and establish the exact state of its finances.

Hull council leader Simone Butterworth said she welcomed Raynsford's comments.

'We understand there is still a great deal of work to do and we are determined to achieve the goals set out in the action plan.'

Managing director Jim Brooks, who took up his post earlier this year, said he was 'delighted the minister recognises the progress we have made so far'.


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