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Shared Chief Executive arrangements for Brentwood

June 28, 2021 3:19 PM
By Barry Aspinell
Originally published by Brentwood Liberal Democrats

Following the announcement by the Conservative administration that our Chief Executive is to take up a joint role as Chief Executive of both Brentwood and Rochford Councils, the Tories say this will present a saving to Brentwood as Rochford will be paying half his salary. We say Brentwood has been in a similar position before. It didn't work then, and it will not work now.

Brentwood Council has a dozen major projects in the pipeline that involve hundreds of millions of pounds (of our money) and will affect residents for many, many years to come. These projects demand the constant, hands-on attention of our most senior officer. We cannot see how this can be achieved when OUR Chief Executive will be dedicating half his time attending to the requirements of another authority! Not only that, but the input of several other senior officers from Brentwood Council will be reduced as they support the Chief Executive in his joint role.

We have not been approached, as a Council, to formally discuss this before the public announcement had been made. The arrogance of our Conservatives knows no bounds!

Links with other Councils also continue to gather pace, as proposed by our Tory Leader. Our membership of ASELA (The Association of South Essex Local Authorities), we are told, promises a pot of gold through the opportunity of drawing down hundreds of millions of pounds from the Government to spend on vital infrastructure projects. Sadly, Brentwood residents have been little informed of the activities of ASELA, that our Leader, Cllr Hossack, now holds the heady position as Chair of that Association, or even how this magical pot of funding would produce specific benefits to our borough. We had been promised full transparency surrounding the aims and objectives of the Association, but aside of one small article hidden deep within ASELA's website, little has been done to promote information sharing on their current priority - the creation of a 'governance structure' incorporating all six member authorities (Thurrock, Basildon, Southend on Sea, Castle Point, Rochford and Brentwood) which would see the transfer of decision making powers from local authorities handed over to a newly created centralised function. In other words, the voice of local councillors representing you, as local residents, would no longer be heard and those decisions relating to the very projects so vital in sustaining the infrastructure needs of Brentwood being made from an office desk located in Basildon, Thurrock, or perhaps even Rochford!

Is it any wonder that residents lose confidence in our Tory administration when assurances are offered that there are absolutely no intentions for Brentwood to merge its services with other local authorities yet hidden in the Minutes of the Full Council meeting held on Wednesday 16th September, 2020 sits a Motion proposed by our Leader and duly supported by his Tory membership, stating "This council recognises at some point Brentwood will likely sit under a Unitary Authority, with an overarching Combined Authority". Even more galling is that this Motion did not allow for any debate before being voted on. Now that is NOT democracy in action for you!

We tried to warn the residents of Brentwood of these moves along with what we deemed as dodgy deals in literature and on social media platforms prior to the last election. There was an opportunity to oust the Conservatives from their position of power but obviously, we didn't succeed in getting our message across and residents believed the lies they were being told by the Conservatives, both nationally and locally. Yes, there is another opportunity next May but who knows what mayhem and destruction they will put in place, irrevocably, before then?

For the record, the Liberal Democrats believe that Brentwood is big enough to deliver its services as a stand-alone authority and small enough to care for its residents in a meaningful way, not just platitudes and broken promises, and we can assure you that on the 28th July, 2021 at the Full Council meeting in Brentwood we will be making our voices and opposition to the Chief Executive arrangements heard.