At last night’s Council Meeting the Liberal Democrats were shocked when Conservatives voted down a proposal to bring in a fairer, more democratic and transparent process for appointments and payments to Councillors who sit on the boards of Council owned companies such as OPTALIS and Wokingham Housing Ltd.
Cllr Lindsay Ferris (Twyford ward) said “The appointment and removal of councillors as directors is currently a completely closed process in which effectively a clique of Conservative councillors is free to give each other nice little earners. This is completely unacceptable. I am really angry that the Conservatives see informing local residents and using tax payer’s money wisely as of such little account. We proposed a clear, open and democratic process with timely public reporting of what is going on. Instead the Conservatives opted to keep their ‘jobs for the boys ’system.
Cllr Prue Bray (Winnersh ward) added “The Conservatives seem to think they can do what they like and that the normal rules of public life don’t apply to them. This was reinforced when at the meeting not a single one of the directors declared their interest in the companies when the proposal was discussed. I had to stand up and point out that councillors who had a financial or other interest should have disclosed this. Failure to do so is at best a breach of the code of conduct and could even be a criminal offence. We have asked the Council’s monitoring officer to rule on whether Council standards and any laws have been broken.
This is not the end of matter. We are determined to ensure a proper process is brought in, with the people of Wokingham given full access to how these appointments are made and which roles are being paid for with their money.”
The Proposal - voted down - by the Conservatives:
In August 2012 the Liberal Democrats called in the Executive decision to pay Members appointed as Non-Executive Directors on Council owned companies £6095 per annum.
As a result of this, it was agreed that “in order to make the process of appointing and remunerating Member Non-Executive Directors s more open and transparent it was agreed that the Chairman on behalf of the Committee would write to the Executive requesting that:
a) the IRP be asked to undertake a regular review of the amount of remuneration that was appropriate for Members to receive when acting in the capacity of a non-executive director and report back to the Executive. This review should be undertaken as a separate piece of work but at the same time as the IRP undertake their annual review of Members’ allowances;
b) the Constitution Review Working Group be asked to consider the most appropriate process for appointing Member NEDs and report back to the Executive.”
Since then it is clear that no change to the previous procedure has taken place.
This Council in its role as shareholder, will make the process of appointing, remunerating and removing Non-Executive Directors of Council owned companies who are also Wokingham Borough Council Members fairer, more open and more transparent by:
i)Creating an application process for appointments;
ii) Setting up a body to decide on the appointments;
iii) Ensuring specific measurable criteria are used and applied in the appointment and removal decision making;
iv)Setting up a process of immediate notification to all Members and the Public of appointments and removals of Council Members to and from the boards of the Council owned companies;
v)Making determination of appropriate remuneration for Council Members who are directors of council owned companies part of the remit of the Independent Remuneration Panel;
vi) All appointments, removals and remunerations are to be ratified by full Council;
vii)Publishing and maintaining an up to date Register of Members sitting on the boards of Council owned companies to include the specification of the Role and stating which Member roles are paid and how much is being paid
These actions are to be completed by and reported back at the March 2015 Council Meeting.