Northumberland County Council has agreed to update its constitution in relation to disciplinary action against senior staff.
The changes, which were approved at the full council meeting on Wednesday, November 4, were necessary ‘to ensure that procedures relating to statutory officers (namely the head of paid service, chief finance officer and monitoring officer) are in accordance with the most up-to-date national regulations covering these posts’.
The report to councillors explained that the authority has recently sought additional support through Solace, a network for local government and public sector professionals, which has helped ‘to appoint a governance team of external consultants to provide additional resources to the council on a number of governance issues it currently faces and as part of its new governance accountability framework’.
Members agreed that the staff (appeals) committee is renamed the employment (appeals) committee, that its membership should be increased from three to five politically-balanced members, that Cllr Jeff Watson should be appointed the standing chair for the rest of this council year, and that the panel membership should be increased from 16 to 20, including four cabinet members.
They also agreed that the procedures set out in the JNC (Joint National Committee for Chief Executives of Local Authorities) Model Disciplinary Procedure & Guidance should be formally adopted as a framework in relation to the roles mentioned above.
While not explicitly referenced, it does not appear to be a coincidence that this comes in the wake of the row between the chief executive Daljit Lally – the head of paid service – and the Conservative administration.
The report notes that ‘the current rules provide that any suspension of a statutory officer will be on full pay and last no longer than two months’, which has now been changed in line with the JNC model so that the suspension is still reviewed after two months, but can continue, although only after consultation with the independent investigator.