£6k Cost of Town Council External Investigator



Town Councillors in Houghton Regis have engaged an external investigator (EI) at an estimated cost of £6,000 for ten days work.

ENHANCED AUDIO ONLY:


Before the present council came in, in 2015, a community worker was engaged by the Houghton Regis Town Council, but the contract with What About Youth Ltd was scrapped about March 2015, prior to the 4 yearly elections. The company then sued the Council.

The newly elected councillors then spent many hours in meetings, above what they might have been expected to have spent, and often in private session, deliberating over compensation claims by the community worker. An out of court settlement was made (£28,000 –») but without a confidentiality clause. Together, with compensation and officers time, it is estimated that the Town Council have incurred some £40,000 of costs.

A firm of solicitors acting for the Council have since apologised to the Council for advice it gave over the out of court settlement, and offered the Town Council £500 in compensation. The cheque has not been cashed because some councillors believe the advice they got was poor.

On 20th December 2018 town councillors held meetings to decide whether or not to appoint an EI. During that meeting members of the Labour group left before a vote to approve the appointment was made. The meeting was still quorate after they left, and motions were passed to appoint the EI. (see Council Appoint Independent Investigator Over Out of Court Payout )

The EI  will look into whether councillors received good advice or not.

At the Town Council meeting on 21st January 2019, it was reported that the EI may take 10 working days to complete his work; he had received 9 questions from councillors; identified 3 people that he might interview, and is expected to have a report for the Council by the end of January.

Labour leader, Martin Kennedy lambasted the decision made to appoint the EI. He said, “The terms were utterly inadequate to give any possible timescale, but we were assured by Cllr Abbott that on the basis of past experience S—  had assured us that it should not exceed 5 working days. Now, we are saying it will take 10 working days, and could be even longer. All we knew was it was going to cost us £600 a day.”

Independent councillor, David Abbott, believes the Council were given poor advice, the Council had given away £40,000 of residents money already, and it needed to be investigated to ensure the Council got proper recompense.

The meeting was recorded and placed on The Town Council's YouTube Page. Below video starts when the item is discussed:



The agenda for this meeting.


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