Two councils, one shared executive and one common lack of transparency?

When we summed up the events of September, we wrote about the perfect storm that we find ourselves in. If you don’t remember, it might be worth going back and refreshing your memory. Towards the end of that piece we noted that HBC were charging headlong into an ever closer union with East Hants District Council

The executive and senior management levels of Havant Borough Council have already been replaced by the same individuals in Petersfield who run East Hants which, given the far greater strategic significance of the southern part of the combined borough, might appear to some as the tail wagging the dog. To all intents and purposes, Havant is being run by East Hants.

With this in mind, last night we attended a meeting of East Hants District Council Standards Committee. The sole agenda item for this meeting was the presentation and discussion of a report into the governance of East Hants District Council. (The full text of the report can be read by taking the link.)

Background to this report

In December 2019 a member of the Council expressed concerns about decision taking and the actions of officers, making a number of serious allegations. The specific allegations included ‘improper conduct’ and a case of ‘corporate corruption [by the Council] not personal… but the Council putting money in its bank account by taking decisions improperly and lacking in full transparency’. The email also contained allegations of having been ‘misled by officers’.

These allegations, together with pre-existing concerns that the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive had about conduct and behaviours within the Council, triggered a wider review of governance. An independent consultancy, David Bowles Associates, was appointed in February 2020 to carry out that review. The report being reviewed at this meeting is the output from his review.

Cllr Malcolm Johnson, Chairman of the Standards Committee first introduced those present and conducted the usual formalities with the the members of his committee.

Two points to note, firstly, the EHDC officers present also hold the equivalent roles on Havant Borough Council. Secondly, this EHDC broadcast shows all councillors full screen, rather than hiding behind PowerPoint slides or tiny thumbnails as they do for HBC meetings. (When you can see ‘the whites of their eyes’, the presentation is far more engaging – Havant take note.)

Cllr Johnson then introduced David Bowles who gave a presentation of his report. This clip shows selected edits from Mr Bowles’ presentation. Well worth watching this given that there are many who question the level of transparency and quality of scrutiny that we’ve observed here with Havant Borough Council.

For the full presentation, refer to the full recording at the foot of this post.

The meeting then turned to members of the Standards Committee to ask questions of the report’s author and for him to offer his responses. Worth watching if you’re interested since there are significant details included in the discussion.

The full meeting recording is available below.

Unedited meeting recording