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Agenda item



To receive questions from members of the public who may wish to ask a general question of the Mayor, Cabinet Member or the Chair of a Committee in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12.


(1) Mr. Harron asked since the Jay Report in August 2014, how many gold group investigations into services had RMBC either initiated, or participated in, because of complaints about either commissioned services, non-commissioned services or any RMBC services?


The Leader confirmed “Gold” was a term and a command hierarchy used for major operations or issues within and across public services. A Gold Group was used a formulate the strategy for dealing with the operation and responding to issues in a strategic fashion in relation to those instigated with complaints against services either the Council commissioned or provided directly and since the Jay Report there been one such organised investigation.


In a supplementary question Mr. Harron asked the Leader if he could explain broadly the nature of the threat or why such that a Gold Group investigation was set up.


The Leader explained that in broader terms there were a number of complaints overlapping and inter-related complaints of a serious nature which would fall within the remit of different organisations to investigate.  In this case it related to one supplier of services and at that point in time it was decided that the best way to co-ordinate an investigation was to run that through a Gold structure.


(2)  Elizabeth was unable to attend the meeting so would be provided with a written response to her question.


(3)  Mr. Cawkwell was unable to attend the meeting so would be provided with a written response to his question.


(4)  Mr. Thirlwall asked could the Leader please tell him who was the Leader of the official Opposition Party in the Council, which political party he/she represented, how many Opposition members there were in that group and how much the Leader of the Opposition received in Special Responsibility Allowance.


The Leader confirmed Councillor Allen Cowles was leader of the main Opposition group – the Brexit Party Group and he himself was a member, as per the notification provided to the Proper Officer on the formation of that group in July, 2019.  The Brexit Party Group consisted of eleven Members.


In addition, the Members’ Allowances Scheme had set the Special Responsibility Allowance for the Leader of the Main Opposition Party at £8,617 and Councillor Cowles had, therefore, been in receipt of the allowance since May, 2016.


As part of a supplementary question Mr. Thirlwall having looked at the Register of Interests late last week all eleven of those Members were still listed as being in the UKIP Party.


Miraculously when he looked yesterday the majority had changed to the Brexit Party.  This question had been raised on three separate occasions since October, 2018 and as Leader it was made clear that the responsibility for completing the Register of Interest was the individual Councillor and no one could do it on their behalf. 


On this basis who gave the instruction to alter the Register of interests in the last couple of days, when was it completed, was it altered without the proper authorisation of the individual Councillor, which was gross misconduct by an officer of the Council.  If this was the case whereby instructions to delete those amendments must be made thus reverting those Members back to the UKIP Party.


The Leader was, therefore, then asked if he would be referring those Councillors to the Standards and Ethics Committee because they had not completed their Register of Interests within twenty-eight days.  Finally would the Leader be seeking to recover the £8,000 Special Responsibility Allowance because it would appear that Councillor Cowles was a member of the Brexit Party, but the other eleven were not.


The Leader confirmed Mr. Thirlwall was quite right that the responsibility did lay with the individual Member to make sure their Register was updated.  He was not aware there had been an instruction for them to change and had not been involved in any issues around this.


The Leader reiterated that for all Members if they were Members of a Political Party then those should be declared.  If it was believed a Register of Interest had been tampered with without permission he encouraged Members to come forward, but was not aware of any evidence to suggest that this was the case.


However, if it was proven that a Member had not updated their Register of Interests within the mandatory twenty-eight days then this was certainly something that could be reported to the Standards and Ethics Committee. 


The Leader agreed to confirm this in writing to Mr. Thirlwall at his request.