January 26, 2022 3.02 pm

“It’s a bl**dy pantomime” – councillor steps down from SKDC’s environmental company after less than three months

Questions raised over other councillor directors

A senior South Kesteven District Councillor has stepped down as an executive director of its environment company less than three months after being installed into position.

Conservative Councillor Robert Reid told the Companies Committee on Tuesday that he had “honestly felt” he could manage the position on Environment SK, along with his role as Cabinet Member for Housing, when he was voted in on November 2 and that he “wanted to help”.

Scrutiny councillors, including Independent Councillor Ashley Baxter, were keen to point out that they had previously questioned if the member “had the bandwidth to do this job and whether or not there was any conflict of interest”.

Councillor Reid said: “In absolute transparency, I have found there are issues within the Housing Revenue Account contract and, simply, I might have been better to have taken advice.”

He said he had previously stated he would always put his cabinet role first and added that in his short tenure he had put in place processes to “make the way forward for the transparency of the company” and refocus its direction.

Independent Councillor Philip Knowles said: “There was always a clear, clear conflict of interest between those two roles and I’m very, very pleased to say that now that’s been corrected.”

Independent Councillor Phil Dilks, who does not sit on the committee, said there had been a “pattern of confusion” around directors and accused the council’s officers of “farcical confusion” at previous meetings.

“When are we going to get this right?” He asked.

“It’s just total confusion, it’s a bloody pantomime.”

Councillors also suggested the latest update raised questions around whether there was a conflict of interest of fellow cabinet member Conservative Councillor Adam Stokes – who oversees the authority’s finance and budget, including grounds maintenance – sitting on the company.

“If Adam Stokes is a cabinet member, responsible for procuring grounds maintenance, how can he also be the chair of the company which is delivering grounds maintenance?” Said Councillor Baxter.

“The role of the director of EnvironmentSK is to maximise the income for ESK, the role of the the cabinet member of the finance is to minimise what we pay our contractors,” he commented.

Councillors also raised questions over SKDC finance chief Councillor Adam Stokes.

Councillor Reid said he had “every confidence” in Councillor Stokes.

Conservative leader Councillor Kelham Cooke suggested there was a reshuffle of his cabinet on the horizon, but told councillors advice had been received that showed there was no conflict of interest.

He said it would be shared with members.

At the meeting Councillors agreed to appoint Alan Robinson as the director of Environment SK and also to approve the appointment of an interim Non-Executive Director for up to one year at a cost of £12,000.