April 30, 2022 12.00 pm This story is over 25 months old

Council denies scrutiny secrecy after report remains unpublished nine months on

Review “highlights massive gaps” in examination process

South Kesteven District Council leaders have denied hiding the results of a review into how its decisions are scrutinised, despite having not published them in nearly nine months.

Deepings Independent councillors have criticised how long it has taken for the report – carried out by the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny and led by a Conservative councillor from another authority – to be made public despite it being submitted in August.

The review reportedly investigated the role, structure and performance of the council’s scrutiny system.

Councillor Ashley Baxter said: “Taxpayers deserve openness and transparency.

“That’s why I wanted to share the secret report with the press and public but was warned not to by the council’s monitoring officer.”

He said the report made “some positive comments” about the process but added it “also highlights massive gaps… which means that, in many areas, cabinet members are not being held accountable for their decisions”.

Councillor Phil Dilks said a lack of proper scrutiny would bring the council into disrepute.

In a meeting of the Environment Scrutiny Committe on November 30 last year, Councillor Dilks told members “scrutiny review seems to suggest we weren’t holding the leader to account as perhaps we ought to be”.

In his latest statement, he criticised in particular a recent meeting regarding the Deepings Leisure Centre which he said attempted to restrict comments from a local businessman and other councillors.

“Effective scrutiny involves listening and responding to challenge and question from members of the public as well as elected councillors, not shutting down legitimate debate,” he said.

The council’s cabinet member for Corporate Governance and Licensing Conservative Councillor Linda Wootten denied there was any secrecy.

She said: “South Kesteven District Council is committed to openness and transparency.

“The Scrutiny Review report has not been hidden and will be published early in the new civic year, which begins after the council’s Annual Meeting on May 26.

“The council is working on a comprehensive action plan and potential options are being considered to present to all councillors.”

She said the plan would be considered by scrutiny committees before a further draft would be recommended to cabinet.”