Designated Independent Person provisions scrapped

10 Apr 15

Ministers have removed independent protections for council Section 151 officers and those holding other senior posts in local government after concluding the current regime was costly to councils.

Publishing the government’s response to a consultation on ending the Designated Independent Person provisions for senior posts including finance directors, local government minister Kris Hopkins confirmed government moves to scrap existing provisions.

Secondary legislation was passed on Wednesday to allow senior officers, also including the head of paid service and the monitoring officer – posts usually held by the chief executive and director of legal services – to be dismissed by a vote of full council.

Under the previous system, local authorities were required to appoint a Designated Independent Person to review cases before senior officers holding statutory positions were dismissed.

Hopkins said this led to a costly legal process, which often meant council chiefs were offered ‘inflated golden goodbyes’ by town halls keen to avoid legal processes.

‘Local government estimates the review process can cost at least £100,000 in legal fees, not counting independent investigation costs and salary for the suspended officer,’ Hopkins said in a written statement.

‘One previous case cost £420,000 and took 16 months to adjudicate. Ministers believe decisions by full council ensure proper democratic accountability, without the need for a centrally dictated process.

‘We are laying this week the associated secondary legislation which will reduce the unnecessary and costly bureaucratic process for councils to take decisions about disciplinary matters, including dismissal, of the most senior staff.’

Under the new regime, council officers holding statutory positions can be dismissed by a council vote.

‘The reforms give councils the power to decide on the best disciplinary process that will deliver value for money for local taxpayers, whilst retaining independent scrutiny and accountability to local people,’ Hopkins added.

CIPFA had previously warned that the loss of the protections for finance directors could undermine the post’s statutory responsibility to ensure financial probity.

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