Slough BC’s monitoring officer has issued a statutory report to councillors on what he says is an “unlawful” attempt by its leader to remove him.
Gurpreet Anand said legal advice required him to issue the report even though it concerned himself. A statutory report formally warns a council against unlawful actions.
The row has erupted over leader Sohail Munawar’s (Lab) intention to remove Mr Anand’s designation as monitoring officer, though not to dismiss him.
Mr Anand argued that only full council can remove a monitoring officer, and even then proper grounds must exist since the post is protected from normal disciplinary processes by the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) Regulations 2001.
The report said Cllr Munawar had given “no lawful reasons” why he wanted Mr Anand’s designation removed other than concerns over handling a whistleblowing allegation and “these allegations have not been particularised or formally investigated”, while Mr Anand has not been given an opportunity to respond.
This meant “it appears that the proposal to re-designate the monitoring officer role is being proposed as a disciplinary action without following disciplinary processes, as a means of avoiding the statutory protection provided by the 2001 Regulations and/or as a means of seeking to legitimise the leader of the council’s attempted [unlawful] actions”, the report said.
The leader’s failure to act on Mr Anand’s advice as monitoring officer meant “both his actions and any proposed actions continue to be unlawful”, the report said.
Advice from law firm Weightmans was that next Tuesday’s full council meeting was likely to breach the law if it removed Mr Anand’s designation and therefore he should make the statutory report under Section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.
An exchange of emails published with the report showed Cllr Munawar stating: “I am not satisfied that you have fulfilled your duties…and this puts both you and the reputation of the council at risk.
“This email is to confirm that I am removing the role of monitoring officer from you and these duties will now be undertaken by your deputy.”
A later email showed Cllr Munawar’s belief that the 2001 regulations do not apply as he proposed to remove Mr Anand’s designation, not to dismiss or discipline him.
Mr Anand replied that this amounted to “de facto dismissal which will be unlawful”, and said the council could not evade legislation by purporting to re-designate a role rather than taking disciplinary action.
Slough’s chief executive Ruth Bagley was suspended in August and it has two out of three director positions filled by interim appointees. One of seven assistant directorships has an interim and two are vacant, the council said.
A motion next week from the Conservative opposition calls for an urgent review of the senior management because “the high number of interim directors and vacancies delivers no value for money for taxpayers and has led to a deterioration in some areas of service delivery”.
Cllr Munawar has been contacted for comment.