Statement on publication of Best Value Inspection report

15 June 2023

Thurrock Council's new leader has responded to the findings of the Best Value Inspection report which has been published by the government today (Thursday 15 June 2023).

The report has been released following an independent investigation into the council's financial failure, which resulted in government intervention in September 2022.

The council has accepted the description in the report of an historic culture of poor leadership and a lack of transparency, which ultimately contributed to poor financial decisions.

As well as looking into events leading to the government's intervention, including unacceptable systemic failings, the report found areas of good practice and noted that progress was being made.

The council's Improvement and Recovery Plan, which was submitted to government in December 2022, is continually evolving to ensure the council regains financial sustainability and makes the necessary significant improvement. The plan builds on the progress made so far. An updated version is currently being produced, it outlines how councillors and officers will work together to secure the council's recovery.

Councillor Andrew Jefferies, Leader of Thurrock Council, said:

"Whilst I am deeply sorry for the shocking and unacceptable failings of the past, I can pledge that under my new leadership the council will never repeat these mistakes. I am grateful for the work done by the inspectors in looking over these events and publishing a report which has shone a light on what went wrong. This includes a range of corporate and individual failings that should never have occurred. The report will now shape our recovery as we build back from this.

"There is now much work to do and I am proud of the way that staff and councillors have stepped up to tackle the major issues laid bare in the report. We should be under no illusions that there is a long way to go and difficult decisions will have to be made. But throughout this process I will remain determined to protect vulnerable residents and ensure that essential services are delivered across the borough.

"We are putting our finances back on the path to sustainability, improved transparency and openness and are tackling a history of poor communication. Officers and elected members will continue to work together to improve the council's leadership and ensure good decision making. There have been changes at senior officer level including a new Chief Executive and Managing Director Commissioner, and I am confident we are building a strong team.

"There is no escaping the fact that councillors from across the council must accept responsibility for what has happened, and we must work collaboratively to put things right. We have a duty to both residents and the borough that we too call home. Under my leadership, the drive to recover the council's finances and transform the way we operate will be the number one priority. All councillors, including me, must take ownership of the Improvement and Recovery Plan. We will remain accountable throughout this journey and keep residents informed along the way.

"Thurrock is a borough that will succeed and flourish. We want to be the energetic, hard-working and ambitious council local people need and deserve."

Chief Executive and Managing Director Commissioner, Dr Dave Smith, added:

"This is a turning point for Thurrock Council. We can now see in detail the findings of the report into what went wrong. The serious and significant failings that took place here cannot be understated. We will not shy away from the hard truths about the way the council was operating and the changes that need to be made.

"The report looks back, and rightly so, at the place we need to move on from. We are already looking forward and building on the progress that has been made since the intervention last autumn. The report recognised that some services have areas of good practice in place, and we are looking at how we can be the best we can be across the whole council. Our staff have shown great resilience and commitment to keep providing services that local people rely on, and they are ready to make the fundamental changes ahead.

"Since I took up the role of Managing Director Commissioner in March, I have been advocating a one council approach to instil best practice across the whole organisation. The future is in collaboration so we can deliver in a united and efficient way for the good of residents.

"As we look at the report and the impact of the findings, it is clear there is a long road ahead to recover from this grave position. We will recover and I am committed to working with staff, members and partners on the improvement journey.

"From the start Thurrock Council has worked openly and honestly with the Commissioners and government, and this will continue."

The full report is available at GOV.UK: Thurrock Council – Best value inspection report.