Council Leader Carl Maynard has come out fighting, insisting that Rother has never hidden any information from the public and that the authority takes its accountabilities to the community “extremely seriously”.
In a strongly-worded reply to the minister, the Conservative councillor said receiving the letter was “hugely disappointing” and maintained he always encouraged full discussion of important issues.
As Leader of the Council and Chairman of the Cabinet I have always encouraged full discussion of issues at cabinet meetings.Council leader Carl Maynard
The letter says: “In the last two years we have only conducted two reports in confidential session and both these were to do with legal matters.
“The changes made to our organisational structure and the redundancy payments were all in line with the council’s redundancy policy and made clear in public reports.
“Furthermore, as Leader of the Council and Chairman of the Cabinet I have always encouraged full discussion of issues at cabinet meetings and allowed, in fact encouraged, non-cabinet members to speak.
“I can assure you that the issues you raise in your letter are being actioned and the information will be placed on our website in the next few weeks as you suggest (in fact if your officials wish to check they will find much of it already there).”
He added: “I am hugely disappointed to receive such a letter from the DCLG only weeks before the general and district elections on matters where you believe we have not conformed to the various codes.
“With staff resources within Rother DC having been depleted by 27 percent over the last three years, our previous response offered the council’s commitment to comply with the codes and legislation within a reasonable timescale and within existing staff resources.”
Cllr Maynard took the opportunity to highlight in the letter how the “responsible” administration had met the challenges of managing increasing volumes of work with decreasing resources, reduced its senior management team by a third, followed the Coalition Government drive to hold levels of council tax and maintained services despite a cut in funding through joint working, outsourcing, sharing services and devolving powers to parish and town councils.
Cllr Maynard concluded by telling Mr Hopkins: “As I have previously said, it was therefore hugely disappointing to receive your letter.
“Your view is not shared by the Conservative councillors and MP’s in this area who view Rother DC as one of the more responsible authorities.
“Nevertheless, as previously requested, every effort will be made to accommodate your requirement over the forthcoming weeks.”
* Cllr Maynards letter is in the public domain.
To read his letter to Kris Hopkins MP in full, please visit http://www.rother.gov.uk/article/11016/Response-by-leader-of-the-council-to-Kris-Hopkins-MP