Councillor J Green reported as follows:
(a) The Additional Cabinet Meeting
Three weeks ago it had been decided that there was a need for an additional Cabinet meeting to cover a series of matters. This was discussed with the Chief Executive and the Executive Team who agreed.
Those officers, who had written reports for the Chief Executive, in his absence, were thanked for their work.
The agenda for the meeting had been published without the reports being attached. This was because there had been an internal capacity issue.
When the agenda had been published it had included an item titled ‘Leader’s Investigation’. After taking advice from colleagues it was decided to take this item of business off the agenda. Therefore, the agenda had been unpublished and then republished on the internet without this item but with the reports attached. An apology was made about that.
The Council was working with the Local Government Association to have an Improvement Board that was providing advice and informing of best practice and what worked well in other local authorities. Some of the Cabinet reports on the agenda would be presented to the Improvement Board for its comments.
As well as the items on the agenda there would be two items of urgent business considered at the meeting. They were:
(i) Pacific Road Arts Centre, Transport Museum and Tramway, Birkenhead – Outcome of Tender Exercise
An urgent decision was needed on what should be done in the short term as there were resource implications and proposals relating to fixtures and fittings that could affect the future use of the venue.
(ii) Compromise Contracts
An urgent decision was needed on how to handle compromise agreements/contracts. The Improvement Board would also be asked to consider this report.
(b) Labour Group
Councillor P Davies had replaced Councillor S Foulkes as Leader of the Labour Group.
Tribute was paid to Councillor Foulkes who was driven by the spirit of public service. He had been the Leader of the Council for twelve years. His contribution was recognised and he was thanked for his service. Councillor P Davies was congratulated on his new appointment. A letter had been sent inviting him and Members of his Political Group to take up the four vacant Cabinet seats. A response was awaited.
(c) Highway and Engineering Procurement Exercise (HESPE)
The Acting Chief Executive/Director of Finance was requested to provide the Cabinet with an update on progress of the District Auditor’s report on the HESPE. He reported as follows:
The second draft of the HESPE report had been issued by the District Auditor on 13 March 2012 and a response on its factual accuracy had been requested by 27 March 2012. The response had been sent within the timescale laid down. The final report was now awaited and it was expected that it would be received within the next two weeks.
The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management reported that the Council’s responses to the second draft had been comparatively minor. The District Auditor may now be considering whether to consult with any other body on his report.
It was important that the District Auditor’s final report on the HESPE was delivered along with an action plan and made public.
(d) Director of Technical Services
The Acting Chief Executive/Director of Finance was asked to update the Cabinet on the situation in respect of the Director of Technical Services, who had been the subject of recent media coverage. He reported that it had become clear, following consideration of the District Auditor’s second draft of his HESPE report that further investigations were required on some of the issues that had been raised. The Director of Technical Services was at home and not in the office because investigations could not be carried out with him at work. He had not been suspended.
Councillor D Mitchell, as the Cabinet Member forStreetscene and Transport Services, informed that he was upset to find out that this had happened through the media. He considered that it would have been good manners to have at least informed the relevant Portfolio Holder.
The Acting Chief Executive/Director of Finance informed that he had apologised privately to Councillor Mitchell for this oversight. He apologised publicly for not handling it in a satisfactory manner and accepted that the Cabinet Member should not have found out what had happened through the media.