Convention at the city council dictates that when a decision is brought before councillors to consider it’s always accompanied by a detailed report drawn up by supposedly impartial, objective and disinterested city council officers.
This report will outline what, in the opinion of the council’s officers, are the issues involved. It should also contain carefully considered, unbiased recommendations and advice to councillors and a clear opinion on how they believe councillors ought to proceed when it comes to taking a decision.
This advice then, from council officers, is of the utmost importance and highly influential on the decisions elected councillors reach. The advice not only needs to be entirely impartial and independent but it needs to be seen to be entirely impartial and independent too.
So what’s going on with the report going before councillors on the Resources Scrutiny Commission tomorrow then? The committee is meeting to consider the independent auditor’s report into the building of the Redland Green School. A development that went £6m over budget. Money we, the council tax payer, will be stumping up.
But the officer providing the advisory report to the councillors on the committee is none other than Carew Reynell, who is clearly identified in the auditor’s report as one of the many senior city council officers involved in the Redland Green fiasco who failed to follow the council’s own financial regulations and did not bother to report vital financial information to elected councillors.
And no doubt while Reynell would claim his conduct was a minor issue which had no impact on the eventual overspend. His claims are just that. Claims. And it is actually very difficult to disentangle Reynell’s personal misconduct in his approach to financial reporting procedures from the wider issue of this multi-million pound overspend.
So isn’t it nice for him that he’s been given an opportunity to produce an anodyne report to present to councillors tomorrow that miraculously clears himself of any blame?
And what are Reynell’s recommendations to councillors?
“That members consider the issues raised in Grant Thornton’s report.”
Blimey that’s really encouraging councillors to pay attention to the detail and question his role isn’t it? Reynell also says:
Enhanced guidance on capital programme monitoring is also being prepared, to clarify responsibilities and content of reporting required by the Council’s Financial Regulations.
Is he having laugh? He’s preparing more financial guidance? To clarify responsibilities? What for? He’s the one that didn’t seem to understand or bother following the last lot of fucking guidance that he wrote.
It’s not more and different guidance that’s needed. It’s senior officers who actually understand and unequivocally follow their own guidance in the first place. What’s the point in changing the process when you have members of staff who think they’re above the process anyway?
What’s going on at this meeting is an absolute charade. Reynell is effectively being allowed to deliver a self-serving report into his own conduct that gets him off the hook. You couldn’t make it up, although, er … Actually he probably will!
Perhaps we should also add the fact he has absolutely no idea what a conflict of interest is to his long, long list of incompetencies now?
Let’s hope this committee sees right through Reynell and the rest of Bristol’s senior officer mafia supporting this bollocks and instigates a full disciplinary enquiry into Reynell’s conduct and the rest of the crew responsible for this huge overspend and undermining our democracy by deliberately failing to report financial information to elected councillors.