WALTHAM FOREST: 'Questions still remain' over council failings (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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WALTHAM FOREST: 'Questions still remain' over council failings
12:08am Friday 4th December 2009 in News
THE political leadership of Waltham Forest Council should be investigated over the authority’s mismanagement of millions of pounds, a meeting was told.
Tory group leader Matt Davis launched a scathing attack on the first independent probe into the fiasco during a special cabinet meeting on Thursday, saying questions about the causes remain unanswered.
He warned the scandal was not going to go away and said the public will not have confidence in the council until it is revealed who put pressure on officers to break rules.
A report written by London Development Agnecy boss Sir Peter Rogers acknowledged significant improvements in service delivery.
But he said this was achieved at the expense of good governance and found a deep-rooted ‘culture of non-compliance’ with rules to prevent fraud.
But the findings have been criticised for blaming council officers for failings and ignoring the role of elected representatives.
Mr Rogers said this was a misrepresentation of the report, saying it had made clear that the problems were caused by a rush to improve the authority’s star rating.
But Cllr Davis said: “The question still remains, who told these officers to break these rules and why did they give that instruction? Someone told them to do it. Unless we know who and why, we only have half the story.”
Cllr Davis added that a flawed contract with EduAction, the council’s former schools manager, should be re-examined “with a view to a possible criminal investigation”.
The company was paid £250,000 to help at-risk children in deprived wards, but evidence emerged that it did not fulfil its obligations.
Cllr Davis said: “The money was supposed to go to children in the most deprived wards - that is the biggest disgrace. These are the young people we supposed to care most about.
“These are people who we regularly tell ‘we are there for them’.”
“These people deserve a specific and separate apology. This money would have been for the purpose of creating chances which could have changed their lives massively for the better.”
Council leader Chris Robbins, who was cabinet member for children’s services at the time of the contract, was happy to apologise to any children who did not receive the help they should have done.
He promised to implement the recommendations of the Rogers Report, which includes making cabinet more transparent and improving scrutiny.
The Tory leader also called for a thorough examination into the role of the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) – the body responsible for regeneration funds which were mismanaged.
The LSP, which met in secret and at the time of the failings, was chaired by former council leader, Clyde Loakes.
Mr Rogers admitted the council had a lot of work to do to reconnect with those it serves, but said there was no point in revisiting history and called for a political consensus on how the authority moves forward.
The ruling coalition of Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors pledged to report on progress of implementing the report’s recommendations at a meeting on January 12.
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