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Sarah White Appointed as New Council Monitoring Officer As Rob Parkin Leaves

Published on: 10 May, 2020
Updated on: 11 May, 2020

A bewigged Rob Parkin sits next to Mayor Richard Billington who is giving his first address as mayor in the mayor making ceremony at the Guildhall in May 2019.

by Martin Giles

The Borough Council has a new monitoring officer, replacing Rob Parkin who is leaving for a similar role in Cambridgeshire, moving closer to his family.

The new monitoring officer, Sarah White

She is Sarah White (Senior Specialist, Legal (Lawyer, Planning, Regeneration & Litigation), formally appointed at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday (May 5).

A council spokesperson said: “We were very sorry to see Rob leave but understand his reasons and wish him the very best of luck in his new role. Rob was with us for just over two years having joined us from Portsmouth City Council in January 2018.

Mr Parkin added: “It was a pleasure to have been part of Guildford Borough Council and I am deeply proud of my time there.”

During Mr Parkin’s time at Millmead, he has had to deal with difficult issues relating to the Local Plan and its controversial adoption and various complaints against councillors, including the former leader Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South and Tongham). At least one complaint against him is understood to be ongoing.

Complaints can be an especially tricky issue because a monitoring officer has to act with independence even though complaints might be against those who might have influence over his or her future career. Investigations are not, in most circumstances, made public.

Mr Parkin’s predecessor Satish Mistry, who was also the deputy managing director of GBC, left following a period of “gardening leave” after the council failed to adopt the recommendation of an independent enquiry into a remark made by Cllr Marsha Moseley (Con, Ash Vale) when chairing a planning meeting.

The investigating consultant believed Cllr Moseley should make a public apology but she did so, eventually, only in a private email to the complainants. (See: Complainants Reject Private Apology From ‘Bloody Rabble’ Councillor.)

The monitoring officer normally sits to the left of the Mayor (as viewed) on the dais at full council meetings and gives advice on matters of procedure. His/her responsibilities are contained in the council’s constitution. They are listed as:

The Monitoring Officer’s responsibilities are as listed on section 2, page 29 of the Council’s Constitution.

(a) Maintaining the Constitution  The Monitoring Officer will maintain an up-to-date version of the Constitution and will ensure that it is widely available to councillors, staff and the public and available on the Council’s website.

(b) Contributing to Corporate Management The Monitoring Officer will contribute to the corporate management of the Council, in particular through the provision of professional legal and ethical advice.

(c) Ensuring Lawfulness and Fairness of Decision-Making  After consulting with the Head of Paid Service and Chief Finance Officer, the Monitoring Officer will report to the full Council or to the Leader/Executive in relation to an executive function if he or she considers that any proposal, decision or omission would give rise to unlawfulness or if any decision or omission has given rise to maladministration.  Such a report will have the effect of stopping the proposal or decision being implemented until the report has been considered.

(d) Supporting the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee The Monitoring Officer will contribute to the promotion and maintenance of high standards of conduct through provision of support to the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee.

(e) Conduct of Councillors  The Monitoring Officer will ensure compliance with the Council’s responsibilities and arrangements for dealing with allegations of misconduct by councillors and co-opted members as set out in Part 5 of this Constitution.

(f) Advice on Budget and Policy Framework  The Monitoring Officer will advise whether executive decisions are in accordance with the budget and policy framework.

(g) Providing Advice  The Monitoring Officer will provide advice on the scope of powers and authority to take decisions, maladministration, financial impropriety, probity and budget and policy framework issues to all councillors.

(h) Restrictions on Posts  The Monitoring Officer cannot be the Chief Finance Officer or the Head of Paid Service.

 

 

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