New drive to improve transparency at Hartlepool Borough Council

A new task force has been set up to look into transparency at Hartlepool Borough Council.

By Nic Marko
Thursday, 01 August, 2019, 16:45
Hartlepool Civic Centre

The working group will scrutinise and look to reform how council funding is allocated to organisations with links to elected members.

It comes following a motion raised by Labour Councillors calling for ‘openness and transparency’ at an Extraordinary Meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council on Thursday evening, which lasted under 10 minutes.

The motion called for a review of funding for any organisation to which an elected member is affiliated, for the council to ensure the organisations are audited and findings published, and for the council to state how it validates ‘value for money’ within those companies.

Council leader Coun Shane Moore, who represents the Independent Union, backed the motion, but said it does not go far enough.

He therefore called for the chair of the council to refer the item to the Audit and Governance committee to allow a working group to be set up to further scrutinise activity.

He said: “The Independent Union, Conservative and VAP (Veterans’ and People’s Party) coalition fully agree with the intent behind this motion.

“However we feel that in its current form it does not go far enough to afford any hope of restoring the public confidence in this council.”

He suggested the working group would be chaired by an independent person, report to the Audit and Governance committee, and councillors and residents would be able to have their say.

He added: “If elected members or members of the public have specific concerns they would like the sub-committee to review, I would urge them to make representations to the Audit and Governance committee.

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“I would further request that on completion of the review the report be brought back to full council at the earliest opportunity for us all to discuss the findings and recommendations with all of the facts and options before us.”

Chair of the council, Coun Brenda Loynes backed the approach set out by Coun Moore and said the topic would be referred without discussion to the Audit and Governance committee.

She said: “This motion will be debated when it comes back to full council once Audit and Governance committee have completed the investigation.”

The motion

The full motion read out to council by Coun Amy Prince, and seconded by Coun Paddy Brown said: “Hartlepool’s Labour Councillors requests that this Council:

“1. Review its decision making procedures around the awarding of funding to any organisation to which an elected member is affiliated in a capacity, such as an employee, trustee or director.

“2. Ensures that any organisation in receipt of funding from Hartlepool Borough Council in excess of £1000 in total per annum be subject to stringent processes of auditing and reporting with an additional requirement to submit full accounts, prepared and audited by an independent qualified accountant to Hartlepool Borough Council at the end of each financial year within which local authority funds have been received.

“3. Makes known its systems and processes for ensuring and evaluating ‘value for money’ relating to the funding provided to individual organisations and makes public the results of any and all such evaluations on an annual basis.”