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EDITIONS
Friday, 28 June, 2002, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Week's grace to stop sackings
Walsall town centre
Walsall council has a week to improve its rescue plan
Proposals to prevent several senior council officials in Walsall from being sacked have been rejected by the government.

Ministers have said that 10 officers, including the chief executive, should be replaced by a team of management consultants.

But councillors say the authority can solve its own problems and Whitehall should not impose the new team on the borough.

After a meeting between the two sides on Thursday the borough council has been given just over a week to come forward with "more robust" plans to improve performance.

'More work'

The Audit Commission, which regulates local authorities, recommended last month that the authority accept a team of private consultants to run key services.

The recommendation followed a highly critical report by the Commission in January that condemned the council for its poor leadership.

Walsall council leader Tom Ansell
Leader Tom Ansell: "Hopeful of a way forward"

The officers set to be sacked include the chief executive, three directors of departments - in social services, education and housing and finance - and six other senior managers.

On Thursday council officials told civil servants that out of the 36 Commission recommendations all but six had been implemented.

The action demonstrated the authority was capable of replacing key staff, said a council spokesman.

Representatives of the Minister for Local Government, Nick Raynsford, said the plans were not "robust" enough and "needed more work", the spokesman said.

"There was concern by government of the capability of the council's management team to affect improvement, particularly in social services and education, fast enough - that's the sticking point."

'Common goal'

The council said it had "failed" the people of the borough particularly in education and social services, the spokesman said.

"It's whether the council can appoint new people to achieve this or whether the best way forward is to replace the management team with management consultants."

"We argued that local government is amazingly complicated and changes can't always be implemented quickly."

The government team is due to return to Walsall on Tuesday, 9 July, to hear the council's improved proposals.

Council leader Tom Ansell said: "Given that we share the common goal of improving services for the people of Walsall, we are hopeful that we can quickly gain a shared understanding of the way forward".


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11 Jun 02 | England
30 Apr 02 | England
04 Jan 01 | Entertainment
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