UNIONS SPEAK: Commissioners are a 'positive step' for Northamptonshire County Council

Workers' unions GMB and Unison have cautiously welcomed the arrival of Government commissioners.
Workers' unions GMB and Unison have cautiously welcomed the arrival of Government commissioners.

Workers' unions at Northamptonshire County Council have cautiously welcomed the arrival of Government commissioners drafted in to steady the ship over the next three years.

Yesterday bosses at One Angel Square announced two that two former council chiefs - Tony McArdle and Brian Roberts - would be sent in to oversee finance and governance at the embattled authority.

The move comes after recommendations made in the Government's damning Best Value inspection of the council last month, which described how chiefs operated a "culture" of overspending.

The commissioners, who previously held roles in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, will be at the council alongside a new independent improvement board agreed by the council’s cabinet, which will challenge and oversee improvements at the council.

Both GMB and Unison, the two main unions representing staff at Northamptonshire County Council, have cautiously welcomed the taskforce's arrival.

Unison branch secretary Penny Smith said: “After weeks of uncertainty this is a positive step forward and gives hope to hardworking council staff.

“Unison now wants to work alongside the commissioners to make sure what happens reflects the interests of council employees and local residents who’ve been the ones to suffer as a result of the council’s past failings.”

GMB organiser Rachelle Wilkins added: "GMB cautiously welcomes the commissioners arriving to try and salvage the mess made by the Tory council.

"We hope they will work with GMB and other unions to do the decent thing - paying hard working Northampton County Council employees their deserved pay rise without further delay."

A letter by Alex Powell, the deputy director for local government stewardship in Whitehall, outlines the role the commissioners will play.

They will oversee "all functions associated with the governance and scrutiny of strategic decision making" at the authority.

They will also oversee all functions associated with the "strategic financial management of the authority," which will include helping to draw up the annual budgets.

The ‘lead’ commissioner, Tony McArdle, will be given £800 per day, and his co-worker Brian Roberts will receive £700 per day for any work they carry out for the county council.