A POLITICAL group has criticised a summary by civic chiefs of a recent review as “seriously sanitised”.
The Peer Review was an opportunity for Hartlepool Borough Council to have a team of senior officers and councillors from other authorities, plus officers from the Local Government Association (LGA), review the strengths, weaknesses and the challenges facing the council.
The review took place last month and initial findings were reported to staff and councillors.
But the leader of Putting Hartlepool First, Geoff Lilley, claims the summary sent out to members and staff “glossed over” major issues found during the review, the full details of which are yet to be published.
Coun Lilley added: “This was a seriously sanitised summary of the Peer Groups findings which glossed over the serious nature of the problems identified.
“This is not, in our opinion, the best way to deal with these issues.
“I would agree completely with the sentiments expressed in the letter from the mayor, acting chief executive and the leaders of the Labour and Tory groups, that to invite the peer team in and then to discount the challenges they have posed to us would be the wrong thing to do.
“It is quite ironic really, in providing such an unbalanced summary of the review’s interim findings, all that we have done is provide yet another example of precisely the sort of thing that the review has expressed concern about.”
The summary note to staff and councillors was signed by Mayor Stuart Drummond, Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of the Conservative group Ray Wells and acting chief executive Nicola Bailey.
Coun Lilley said: “The interim results of the review were reported to the mayor, political group leaders and senior officers.
“I discussed these findings with my colleagues in Putting Hartlepool First and decided that the letter being sent by the mayor to councillors and staff following the interim report did not provide a balanced view of its findings.
“As a result, I felt that I was unable to allow my name and that of Putting Hartlepool First to be included in the signatories.”
As reported in the Mail, the Peer Review summary found the council, with partners, has a good range of mechanisms in place for engaging and informing local people and neighbourhood working is operating well.
It also concluded that the council has traditionally performed well and delivered good quality services and major regeneration has been successfully delivered, while the council has a tradition of delivering within budget and has delivered savings required.
The summary also highlighted challenges including making sure there is “clear evidence to demonstrate” the council is meeting the needs of the community and to ensure there is capacity to “address the significant challenges” it faces.
A need to ensure that budget decisions are fully evidenced and that decision making is transparent to the community and partners and to make sure the political leadership and governance of the council is “clear and robust” whether there is change following the mayoral referendum or not.
A council spokesman said: “The note was a summary and provided a balanced view of the initial findings of the Peer Review team.
“A session has been set up for early this week with all councillors to provide them with the initial findings of the Peer Review team.”