Protect local authority governance, CIPFA urges

31 Mar 14

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman has called on ministers to preserve current governance standards in local government rather than allow them to be eroded further

Whiteman said that, taken together, many of the government’s changes put UK councils’ global and ‘hard-won’ reputation for strong governance at risk.

‘The current proposal to abolish protection for chief finance officers through the removal of the Designated Independent Person are worrying on the back of changes already made to close down the Standards Board and, with the abolition of the Audit Commission, the independent appointment of external auditors,’ he said.

‘Given the changes already made, the government should maintain the present system where the administration of an elected mayor or leader must seek the agreement of all councillors of all parties to appoint an independent person to investigate their complaints against a council’s most senior officers.’

His comments were made ahead of the broadcast of an edition of the BBC’s Panorama programme tonight, which will probe allegations of corruption in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Whiteman gave expert guidance to the programme and also appears on screen.

Whiteman went on to note that, given the introduction of directly elected mayors and police and crime commissioners – offices with ‘considerable personal power’ – protection for senior officers would ‘be safer for all concerned’.

He added: ‘CIPFA is concerned that loss of safeguards puts at risk local government’s hard-won reputation for probity and that in the years ahead we could see more examples, as identified by Panorama, of public concerns and questions over whether good governance and public administrations are being followed.’

In a consultation that closed in March last year, the government proposed dropping the requirement for a Designated Independent Person to review cases before senior officers holding statutory positions are dismissed. The department has yet to formally respond to the consultation.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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