Recommendations of Acorn Plus working group debated

Acorn Plus lorry used by Horsham District Council
Acorn Plus lorry used by Horsham District Council

COUNCILLORS at last week’s Horsham District full council meeting have discussed in length the recommendations formulated by the Acorn Plus Working Group.

The County Times has a full report of Wednesday’s meeting in tomorrow’s paper (Thursday May 3), but the council released the following report this morning (Wednesday):

During the last year, the working group examined the roles and responsibilities of cabinet members in relation to the Acorn Plus project.

They concluded that Acorn Plus had proved to be highly popular and extremely successful but in the light of the overspend that was reported and dealt with in late 2010, there needed to be clarification of responsibilities in the council and the working group produced a report focusing specifically on the roles of cabinet members.

In responding to the recommendations on the night, leader of the council Ray Dawe thanked the working group for their work.

He said: “The value of the work undertaken by the Acorn Plus Working Group is fully appreciated particularly since it has made suggestions to avoid any repeat of problems that have been identified in carrying out the Acorn Plus project.

“However, I consider that in some areas further or alternative definition of roles is needed so that in future council members can understand the levels and areas of responsibility.”

Mr Dawe (Con, Chantry) then told the council that he had been in detailed discussion with the chairman and members of the Working Group and the chairman agreed with the amendments that he was putting forward.

The first of these amendments was debated at some length, was put to the vote and was agreed. Subsequently, members agreed to accept all the other amendments.

During the debate, Mr Dawe said that since the working group report had focused on the role of members, he wanted the Chief Executive to explain to the council the role of council officers and directors.

In his response, the chief executive said that the roles and responsibilities of officers are set out in their job descriptions and, in addition, there are a number of roles that are defined in legislation (such as the head of paid service, chief financial officer and monitoring officer).

He also said that in general terms, councillors are responsible for making policy and officers for operational matters involved in implementing policy.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Dawe said: “It was clear from the debate that there is complete agreement across the council that the Acorn Plus project has been a resounding success. Our recent residents’ survey showed almost 90 per cent satisfaction levels.

“Cabinet members and council officers do necessarily work very closely together and defining more precisely the areas of responsibility for actions will in future I believe bring greater clarity and understanding of their respective roles within the council.”