Ex-chief rejects empty homes scandal criticisms
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