Following the incompetent loss of £7million of council taxpayers money in the Icelandic banks fiasco, in January 2009 Leader of the Council, Councillor Andrew De Freitas, and Chief Executive, Tony Hunter, decided to ‘rearrange’ North East Lincolnshire Council’s corporate management team by introducing the new position of the Executive Director Business Services.
The closing date for the application of the new position, with a salary of over £l22K was on 9th February 2009. Consequently, the job was advertised for just 5 weeks. The Council received l7 applications for the new post and 5 of those applications were short listed, which also included an application from Robert Walsh, the Council’s Director of Law and Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer.
One of the principal responsibilities of the role of the Executive Director Business Services is to oversee the statutory legal and democratic services on behalf of the Council in respect of the monitoring officer role, local land charges and licensing, electoral registration and returning officer as well as Freedom of Information Act requirements and the investigation of complaints to the local government ombudsmen.
Without a doubt, the new post encompassed the principal responsibilities of Robert Walsh as the Council’s Director of Law and Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer. Consequently, upon appointment of the new Executive Director, Robert Walsh’s position at the Council would be terminated. The local authority’s new corporate management structure also reflects the replacement of the Director of Law and Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer with the Executive Director Business Services.
On 19th February 2009, the Council’s Appointments Committee met and undertook interviews with the 5 applicants. On this particular day, the committee consisted of 7 members and was chaired by Councillor Andrew De Freitas. Tony Hunter and the Deputy Director Human Resources, Policy, Performance and Development, Helen Isaacs also attended the meeting. At the end of the meeting it was resolved that Robert Walsh was to be appointed to the post of Executive Director Business Services, on terms to be agreed.
The Appointments Committee met again on 24rh February 2009 and undertook 3 interviews for the appointment of the Executive Director Community Services. This meeting was also attended by Chief Superintendent David Hilditch of Humberside Police and Jane Lewington, Chief Executive of North East Lincolnshire Care Trust Plus who were invited to help to determine which applicant was suitable for the position of employment that also helped to provide a degree of transparency in the selection process.
However, during the meeting on l9th February 2009 to appoint the Executive Director Business Services, no other professionals from any other external agency attended. The role of this new post commands tremendous responsibilities in respect of law and finance control, yet the Appointments Committee chaired by Councillor Andrew De Freitas in the presence of Tony Hunter proceeded to interview applicants and determine the outcome without the transparency of having outside professionals present during the interviews.
Consequently, the selection process was seriously biased and flawed since the position of such a new and important executive position within this local authority was determined only by members and employees of the Council who were prejudiced by the fact that Robert Walsh, the then Director of Law and Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer was effectively reapplying for his existing job and therefore would be the only successful candidate.
The 17 other individuals who applied for the post of Executive Director Business Services were never going to achieve this position irrespective of what qualifications they all had. Since Robert Walsh is not qualified to manage the Councils finance department, a Section 151 Officer also had to be employed by this corrupt Council. It is unbelievable that not one of the other 16 applicants possessed the necessary qualifications and experience or they would have not applied for the position.
When North East Lincolnshire Council were requested to provide the qualification details of the 17 individuals, Robert Walsh citing an exemption under the Data Protection Act blocked the request. However, Robert Walsh never consulted any of the 16 individuals to discover whether or not they objected to the release of information surrounding their qualifications. Additionally, he could of also simply redacted identifiable information such as their names from the application information.
A local newspaper also asked the inept Chief Executive, Tony Hunter, the following question:
“And has the head of that new post (Executive Director Business Services) the council’s former most senior legal officer (Robert Walsh) any background and experience in financial management as the post clearly requires?”
In response, Tony Hunter stated:
“A permanent Section 151 officer will be appointed to preside over strategic financial matters.”
As expected, Tony Hunter avoided the question and stated that a further officer would be employed, which we believe will cost the taxpayer a further £80K a year, and is also a further indication that Robert Walsh is not qualified. This is just some of the lengths that these deceitful executive officers will go to in order to protect themselves from public scrutiny.
The Audit Commission also voiced their concerns in respect of the appointment of Robert Walsh as Executive Director Business Services:
“The Executive Director Corporate Services, effectively the strategic director of the Council’s financial services, left the Council in February 2009 to take up a similar post at another local authority. He has, after a competitive recruitment process, been replaced by the Council’s most senior legal officer in a new post the Executive Director Business Services. After Internal Audit had reported such serious flaws in the Council’s financial management arrangements, I do not see how the new arrangement, which involves even less capacity in finance, will improve strategic financial leadership.”
In essence, Robert Walsh is now receiving a further £30K+ a year and a further £80K+ of council taxpayers money is now being spent to plug his professional inadequacies, which is unequivocally supported and endorsed by the contemptible member and leader of the Council, Andrew De Freitas. That it is over £110K+ a year that could be better spent on reduced services, for example libraries and children centres etc., which are needed by people in North East Lincolnshire instead of being squandered on fat cat pay for so called executives at this Council who cannot fulfil the roles and responsibilities of their employment.
If Robert Walsh believes that the above account is incorrect then we invite this crooked Council to provide the taxpayers of the borough with evidence of his qualifications and experience together with the qualifications and experience of the 17 other applicants to demonstrate that Robert Walsh was indeed the right candidate for the position of Executive Director Business Services at North East Lincolnshire Council. But, as previously revealed in other matters, we have no doubt that Robert Walsh and/or one or more sycophants will go bleating to some third party by claiming he was ‘targeted’ instead of enlightening us all with the facts and truth.