Newham Council officers quit in Collegiate Sixth Form blunder
PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 December 2014
A trio of senior Newham council officers have stood down after the borough's newest sixth form centre was found to have opened against legal advice.
A report delivered at an “extraordinary cabinet” meeting on Thursday revealed the council is at risk of acting unlawfully by running Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre, in Barking Road, East Ham, in its current form.
The problem lies in unauthorised improvements to the centre and officers not raising the issue beforehand.
Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales told the assembled council members that it was the first time in 20 years a failure “of this scale” had taken place.
“The governance failures in this report are wholly unacceptable,” he added. “Lessons must be learned.”
Already £11million over budget when it opened in September, council chief executive Kim Bromley-Derry revealed that necessary permission had not been granted and a public consultation was never carried out.
Senior councillors blasted the three officers with deputy mayor Cllr Lester Hudson quick to emphasise the seriousness.
“There has been a complete and utter failure by senior officers in the governance process in this project” he said.
A thorough investigation is currently being carried out across the council’s 250 other major projects and programmes, although to date no other issues have been reported
Despite risking legal ramifications by keeping the centre open in its current form, the mayor stressed that closing the collegiate was not an option. It is currently attended by 152 students and his partnered with eight local schools.
The council will now seek to regularise the centre by handing over duties to another school, or find a proposer to open the centre as a free school.
“I will not allow the mistakes of officers to impact on the learning or life chances of the pupils,” said the mayor. “It’s not their fault we find ourselves in this position and their education must come first.”
Although only referred to by their former job titles at cabinet, the Recorder understands former legal and governance director Helen Edwards and former resources and commercial development executive director Chris Pope were both implicated.
Members heard how officers, including the unnamed former senior project officer for the East Ham campus redevelopment, failed to follow council procedures, ignored in-house and external legal advice and failed to raise the issue with anyone else.
Mr Bromley-Derry said: “Why these officers took these actions is wholly inexplicable. I can only conclude that officers focused on the outcomes rather than the necessary processes to deliver these outcomes.”