Response by Cllr Ruth Skelton, Lib Dem Group Leader, to External Auditors Report

July 1, 2016 9:20 PM

The Lib Dem Group very much welcomes the External Auditor's Public Interest Report. We want the Council to use this as a catalyst for taking a hard look in the mirror and being totally honest about the things the Auditor has said. It also needs to look at things the Auditor hasn't mentioned.

In addition the Council needs to change its culture because among some officers and some councillors the culture is not fit for purpose.

In the past there have been whistle blowers who have "not been thanked" for their honesty and concern. Some of those people, in our opinion, should be given a public apology. We also call on the Council to release such people from the "gagging clauses" they had to sign.

I have been a member of the Licensing Committee for over 15 years. More recently I have become very concerned about the influence of a few people. In paragraph 88 of the report we read of councillors lobbying in order to try to get licences granted. In paragraph 89 we read of some taxi drivers trying to engineer which panel (and therefore which councillors) they appeared before. We have been told that some drivers sought to avoid certain councillors, while others sought to be on the panels of those same councillors. We brought this to the attention of officers at the time. In paragraph 93 we read of an enforcement officer feeling pressure being put on him by a councillor while inspecting a vehicle. In paragraphs 96 and 97 the Chair of the Licensing Committee comes in for serious criticism.

A word of reassurance to the public - the vast majority of Licensing Committee members are honourable and take their duties very seriously. We don't allow unrepentant people with past criminal offences to get licences. There are people who have been stupid while in their teens and early 20's who have now grown up put that behaviour behind them. They are now no danger to anyone.

No doubt some people will object to what I have said. I fully expect some sort of retribution for telling the truth. Maybe someone will get up in this chamber and start telling lies about me. Or perhaps a malicious compliant will be made to the Standards Committee against me - if so that will be the third one. Sadly that's the culture of some people in Derby City Council.