Government commissioners parachuted in to help run Sandwell Council

The Government is sending in commissioners to ensure Sandwell Council is run effectively.

Kerrie Carmichael became the leader of Sandwell Council in November
Kerrie Carmichael became the leader of Sandwell Council in November

Minister for Levelling Up Kemi Badenoch announced in Parliament that commissioners would come to Sandwell for two years to help governance.

The council has had six leaders in the last six years and three chief executives in the last three years due a bitter war between factions in the ruling Labour Party in Sandwell.

However, the Government is not imposing full control on the council. Its report noted "green shoots of recovery" so instead civil servants will help new leader Councillor Kerrie Carmichael run the authority.

Councillor Carmichael took over as leader in November after Rajbir Singh resigned having spent just six months in the role.

Ms Badenoch said: "Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council has struggled for many years to resolve a variety of governance issues, including allegations of serious misconduct by both members and officers.

"The Council has had six different leaders in six years and three chief executives over the past three years. This instability has led to a breakdown in trust, respect and confidence between those holding governance roles at the council.

"That letter emphasises the importance of ensuring that the proposed intervention does not distract the council from the improvements that are starting to be made, and that the council should engage with the Local Government Association’s Corporate Peer Challenge at the end of the month."

The minister added: "The proposed package is centred on the appointment of commissioners to exercise certain and limited functions as required, for two years – it is envisaged this will be a shorter and narrower intervention than has been seen previously.

"The proposal is for the council, under the oversight of the commissioners, to prepare and implement an Improvement Plan, and report on the delivery of that plan to the Secretary of State every six months; and for the commissioners to appoint a permanent chief executive officer within 18 months and then step back from the council."

A Labour source told the Express and Star: "If this would have been a year ago then the Government should have taken over governance because it was an absolute joke. However, we have got rid of a lot of dead wood and toxicity in the Sandwell Labour party and I am glad the good start Councillor Carmichael has made has been recognised."

The three Conservative MPs in Sandwell - Nicola Richards in West Bromwich East, James Morris in Halesowen and Rowley Regis and Shaun Bailey in West Bromwich West - released a joint statement and encouraged local people to make their views known.

They said: "It is well known that Sandwell Council has publicly faced many problems over the years, and as local members of Parliament we are reminded of their failure to govern effectively on a daily basis. The poor decisions and mismanagement at this local authority that have accumulated over decades has undoubtedly affected the lives of the most vulnerable in Sandwell.

"Furthermore, the rotating door of leadership, both politically and in officers, has done nothing but prolong the ingrained poisonous culture that must end.

"Together, we have privately made representations to Government over the need for intervention due to our deep and persistent concerns. This work dates back prior to 2018 – since then, it has become evermore apparent that Sandwell Council requires external help in order to keep up some of the positive changes they have made so far, as well as enabling them to deal with the huge number of issues and concerns beyond this.

"The Secretary of State has made a call for representations from stakeholders across Sandwell on his proposals by February 11, and we would encourage any interested local residents to do this.

"We are firm in our collective view, that many of the issues we see in Sandwell today could have been fixed if more effort had been put into improving the lives of residents, rather than serving personal and political interests. We hope that this next step finally leads to trust in our local authority, as well as much better services and value for money for local taxpayers."

Sandwell Council leader Kerrie Carmichael said: "I want to be clear that as an administration we will do anything it takes to make this council work well for the people of we serve.

"We are waiting for more details from the Government as while we do we will continue to make the improvements we have been making."

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