Worcestershire council leader Simon Geraghty is to face a grilling from opposition councillors over his decision to keep secret a critical financial review.
The council’s Overview & Scrutiny Performance Board have requested that Geraghty attends their meeting on Thursday as a matter of urgency to take questions about the report.
The report, commissioned by then finance chief Sean Pearce with Geraghty’s approval last June at a cost of £29,000, only came to light following an investigation into local council finances by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
The council was forced to hand over the contents of the report after a Freedom of Information request by Bureau reporter Gareth Davies, who in turn shared the findings with the Local Government Chronicle and Bureau member Wyrelife. (Full story here)
The report, by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountability (CIPFA), had alerted the council’s leadership that their financial plans were not sound, overly prudent and overoptimistic.
In a statement last week the council said the findings of the report were taken into account when drafting its budget for 2018-19, and that it had indirectly shared the findings.
However, the statement failed to explain why the report was kept out of the public domain, nor why it did not entrust its findings to fellow elected councillors.
Chris Bloore, chairman of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Performance Board, has added the report to the agenda for Thursday’s meeting.
He says the reason for the urgency is the public interest generated by the Bureau findings and media coverage, and the need for transparency.
Thursday’s meeting could prove an uncomfortable one for the council leadership, as it will also feature discussion of a highly critical scrutiny report into their proposals to close a short breaks unit for disabled children in Ludlow Road, Kidderminster. The report says the consultation process has been “haphazard and inconsistent” and lacks transparency. Read the full story here.