Government considers appointing commissioners to Sandwell Council after damning report

ITV News Central Reporter Lucy Kapasi hears from Sandwell Council leader Kerrie Carmichael.

The government has announced that it is minded to intervene in the management of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council.

The Government sent a letter to the local authority today warning that Secretary of State Michael Gove is considering exercising his powers by offering 'external help'.

The Government could install a commissioner to act as managing director, supported by an Assistant Commissioner, in an intervention that would last two years.

It follows a damning report last month which found a lack of trust, confidence and respect at the local authority.

The Value for Money Governance Review described the level of complaints it was dealing with as a 'mini industry' and that it was dealing with so many it was affecting public services.

It comes as the spotlight is on the borough of Sandwell as it prepares to host Commonwealth Games swimming and diving competitions.

Sandwell Council has been dogged by negative publicity for years Credit: ITV Central

In a letter to the Chief Executive, the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities said the internal audit carried out last month painted a picture of the authority of the 'utmost seriousness'.

Referring to that report carried out by Grant Thornton, it mentioned concerns including:

  • Significant and systemic best value failure

  • A perceived blame culture leading to silo working

  • On culture and leadership, poor behaviour and a lack of trust across the widerorganisation continues to exist

  • An ineffective approach to budget monitoring

It also said inadequate procurement and contract management had led to poor decision making and has impacted negatively on key services such as children's services, special needs and disabilities, transport, waste management and leisure.

But added that 'The Secretary of State is mindful that the new Leadership Team have taken considerable steps in recent months to stabilise the Authority and begin its improvement journey.'

In a statement Sandwell Council said: "The leadership team in Sandwell Council is focussed on embedding the positive changes we have seen in recent months and while we are disappointed in this announcement, we will continue with this work and demonstrate the political determination to move forward and drive improvement and change.

Current council leader Kerrie Carmichael told ITV Central she was focused on making improvements Credit: ITV Central

"We await detail about what this will mean for Sandwell and will work with all our partners to ensure that we continue to deliver the services our residents rely on."

The council leader Kerrie Carmichael said she was keen to take the council forward, she didn't want to concentrate on 'old cases' and she didn't 'see the chaos that people believe is going on in the inside.'

The council has until the 11th February to respond to the government about the review.