October 22nd, 2016

EXCLUSIVE: New leaked email shows council forced into rare EGM debate on £175k chief’s job saga

EXCLUSIVE: New leaked email shows council forced into rare EGM debate on £175k chief’s job saga EXCLUSIVE: New leaked email shows council forced into rare EGM debate on £175k chief’s job saga
Ann Lucas

ANOTHER leaked email states council leaders have been forced into holding a rare Extraordinary General Meeting, following this newspaper’s revelations concerning the £175,000-salaried chief executive’s job.

Our exclusive story last week uncovered one internal council email, written by chief executive Martin Reeves last month, which revealed underling executive Martin Yardley had been quietly ‘appointed’ as acting chief executive by Mr Reeves and beleaguered council leader Ann Lucas – as cover for Mr Reeves when he was working for the emerging controversial West Midlands Combined Authority.

Coun Lucas had publicly stated Mr Reeves would be able to perform both jobs and fulfil his Coventry council duties for which he is paid by city taxpayers. She had also suggested he would be working ’18 hours’ a day if necessary. It prompted claims Coun Lucas had misled the public.

Our story led to the Conservative opposition formally calling for an emergency debate at an EGM – with council elections taking place on Thursday and, as we exclusively revealed, Coun Lucas facing a leadership challenge by her own Labour colleagues concerned about council openness and transparency under her leadership.

Tory group leader councillor John Blundell said last week an EGM was necessary to establish how the council was being governed, how many hours Mr Reeves was fulfilling in his council role paid by city taxpayers, and whether the interim WMCA should reimburse Coventry council for hours lost.

He also questioned Coun Lucas’ and Mr Reeves’ handling of the entire affair, and whether the public had been misled. The Tories and some dissenting Labour councillors have also raised alarm over why the matter was not discussed by democratically elected councillors before Mr Yardley’s acting ‘appointment’. They have questioned whether the ‘appointment’ breached council protocols – a claim denied by Mr Reeves.

The council has now agreed to stage the EGM on Tuesday, May 17.

A second email leaked to us, written by Coun Lucas yesterday to fellow Labour councillors, highlights the council’s and her reasoning for agreeing to the EGM.

It states: “You will be aware that the Conservative opposition has put in a formal request for an EGM to be held in order that the operational issues related to the senior management of the West Midlands Combined Authority can be discussed.

“I am assured by Chris West as Proper Officer that this request is legitimate and so an EGM must be called at the earliest opportunity.

“.. I wanted you to hear this from me first. The request was appropriately signed and in line with the constitution and so due process must be followed.

“I know that in the meantime you will all continue to focus on what really matters, which is the local elections next Thursday. Kind regards, Ann.”

The call for the EGM needed five signatures, which came from Tory councillors.

They have been notified by council officers that the EGM will be held to “discuss the senior governance arrangements of Coventry City Council, as a result of the chief executive’s reduced hours as CEO owing to his commitments with the West Midlands Combined Authority. Furthermore, to better understand the long-term implications for the city council.”

Coun Blundell said today his group would seek to ensure there would be no attempt to limit the remit of the EGM debate, which should examine all matters raised by the saga including a “lack of transparency” with the public.

He added: “It is right and proper we should have a meeting to examine the whole probity of what’s happening. It’s typical of the attitude of the leadership at the moment, which is high-handed and arrogant.”

We revealed the council’s website had failed to notify taxpayers and voters that an acting chief executive had been selected or appointed, or update senior management roles, and there was no public or media announcement via the usual press release.

We also revealed Mr Reeves claimed to councillors he was working two days a week for the emerging WMCA – dubbed a ‘Greater Birmingham’ ‘supercouncil’ by Tories, as thousands of voters signed petitions against Coventry City Council joining it.