A closure of sorts for BCP, as an independent report is revealed at the recent Audit and Governance Committee. The audit covers the 2021-23 era of former Conservative leaders Drew Mellor & Phil Broadhead, and slams their chaotic time in government.
Red flags were raised against BCP’s financial management, governance, efficiency and effectiveness.
Auditors found “risks of significant weakness in the Council’s arrangements” in five areas.
Leadership & political decision-making during 2021-23 was panned.
On financial sustainability:
“BCP [adopted] an alternative high-risk strategy… reliant on the use of reserves to support budgets.”
As previously noted, BCP Conservatives signed off the loss of 89 per cent of council reserves, to prop up their ‘Big Plan’.
What of that Big Plan?
Auditors described the flagship Conservative project as not “coherent”, and many key transformation targets were missed.
They singled out the infamous Broadhead-led FuturePlaces consultancy for special criticism.
The governance of BCP was also heavily criticised.
Auditors found a “toxic and unpleasant” culture, where political leaders “were unwilling to listen to advice from officers”.
They also noted the huge level of complaints and misconduct sanctions against Conservative members.
Governance issues included the Council’s ability to scrutinise itself.
Scrutiny powers were infamously weakened by the Mellor-Broadhead regime, resulting in a loss of independent oversight.
Auditors found red flags in decisions made across the board.
The Bayside Restaurant was cited, with an internal report detailing 18 flags.
That Bayside report should provide an insight into the culture of the time, and surely must now be published.
And of course all of this has left BCP on the brink.
High debt, failed targets, poor decision-making & the purge of reserves have left BCP vulnerable.
The only positive note was the change in political leadership, which removes Conservatives’ ability to do further damage.
Tough times indeed for the new Alliance.
But it’s important to understand and learn from the past. That process continues.
The disastrous and chaotic Mellor-Broadhead era should be documented as a warning to all councils and their leaders.
First posted as a tweet by @adamhighcliffe