Ex-chief re­jects empty homes scan­dal crit­i­cisms

Rossendale Free Press - - News -

A FOR­MER Rossendale coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive has re­jected crit­i­cism of her role in the empty homes scan­dal.

He­len Lock­wood, who left the au­thor­ity in early 2015, was ac­cused by one coun­cil­lor of ‘mis­lead­ing ev­ery­one at the coun­cil’ and be­ing re­spon­si­ble for ‘this sorry mess’ at last week’s full coun­cil meet­ing de­bate over the col­lapse of AAAW Ltd.

The com­ments came in a de­bate about a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in coun­cil leader and Labour coun­cil­lor Alyson Barnes.

Ear­lier this month, Coun Barnes ad­mit­ted that the cost to the au­thor­ity so far of the scheme’s col­lapse was £4.5 mil­lion.

Coun Peter Steen, who sec­onded the mo­tion, said: “They failed in their re­spon­si­bil­ity to the peo­ple of Rossendale.

“They have lost £4.5 mil­lion of the coun­cil tax­pay­ers’ money. That is sim­ply why this mo­tion has been put, the buck has to stop here.”

How­ever, other mem­bers claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity lay else­where.

Coun Tom Al­dred said: “Let’s put the fault where it re­ally be­longs - on the mem­bers of staff who didn’t do what they should have done, and AAAW Ltd.

“That’s where the fault lies here, not on any mem­ber of the coun­cil on ei­ther side of the cham­ber. No mem­ber of the coun­cil is re­spon­si­ble for any­thing that hap­pened. It was the ac­tions of AAAW Ltd and the for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of this coun­cil.”

Coun Alan Neal said: “The in­di­vid­ual that is re­spon­si­ble for this sorry mess tried to pass the blame onto their suc­ces­sor.

“The buck should stop with the per­son who com­pletely mis­led ev­ery­one in this coun­cil cham­ber, and shame on that in­di­vid­ual.

“That in­di­vid­ual led lots of peo­ple on a very long gar­den path and failed to in­form peo­ple what they were up to.”

Coun Andrew Walm­s­ley read out ex­tracts from an au­dit re­port into the scan­dal which stated ‘al­most ev­ery man­age­ment con­trol that the coun­cil should have op­er­ated was over­rid­den’ and that ‘the coun­cil’s con­sti­tu­tion had ef­fec­tively been dis­re­garded’.

In a state­ment, Ms Lock­wood, who is now an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Old­ham Coun­cil, told the Free Press: “It’s im­por­tant peo­ple un­der­stand I have never had the cour­tesy of giv­ing my ev­i­dence and com­ments on th­ese mat­ters – three years on.

“I don’t ac­cept that th­ese com­ments are valid: nor are they the re­sult of a fair in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what hap­pened.”

●● For­mer Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Rossendale Coun­cil He­len Lock­wood

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