Review of recruitment process at Nottinghamshire County Council after former elected councillor wrongly appointed to officer job

Nottinghamshire County Council will review its recruitment practices and procedures after admitting to breaking the law when hiring a former councillor into a prominent officer position.

Monday, 13th December 2021, 4:14 pm

The authority hired former county councillor Phil Rostance into the position of executive officer to the senior leadership team (ruling group) at the start of November.

Coun Rostance had represented Hucknall West on the authority until May this year, before losing in the local elections when running for the nearby Hucknall South seat.

However, Schedule 116 of the Local Government Act 1972 says former councillors are “not to be appointed as officers” until at least 12 months after they ceased to be a member of that authority.

Nottinghamshire County Council hired former county councillor Phil Rostance into the position of executive officer to the senior leadership team (ruling group) at the start of November.

This rule is in place to prevent any conflicts of interest and to reduce political influence in senior officer positions – although there was no suggestion coun Rostance’s appointment has led to either.

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The law adds: “A person shall, so long as he is, and for twelve months after he ceases to be, a member of a local authority, be disqualified for being appointed or elected by that authority to any paid office, other than to the office of chairman or vice-chairman.”

Last month the council publicly admitted to breaking the law when employing coun Rostance, but the authority’s chief executive described it as a “genuine mistake” in the recruitment process.

The issue was described as a “serious matter” but the council opted not to discuss the item in public due to a report containing “personal and financial information” about coun Rostance.

The exempt report was then discussed behind closed doors at the authority’s full council meeting in November.

Councillors were split on whether to hold the meeting in private, before a 33-27 margin vote approved the removal of the press and public for the debate on allowing the former committee vice-chairman to remain in his post.

The council has not officially confirmed what the outcome of the decision was, but the Local Democracy Reporting Service understands Mr Rostance has kept his job.

Now the council has revealed a report will be brought before the personnel committee in March next year, which will set out plans for a review of the recruitment process.

A council spokesperson said: “The council has implemented the resolution agreed at full council on November 25, 2021.

“Recruitment practice and procedures are being reviewed and are included in the work programme for consideration by personnel committee in March 2022.”

Commenting before the full council meeting, chief executive Anthony May said: “I can confirm Nottinghamshire County Council has breached a section of the Local Government Act, which we didn’t know about at the time it happened.

“I am satisfied we made a genuine mistake.

“The breach relates to the employment of a new member of our staff and officers who made the appointment used our normal procedures but were not aware of this particular element of the Act.”

Coun Rostance remains an elected member of Ashfield District Council, representing Hucknall West for the Conservatives.

A previous online job posting for the role when it was first introduced in 2018 shows it has a salary of between £38,052 and £42,806 for 37 hours of work each week.

The posting describes it as an “exciting role”, with the former county councillor required to act “as a key link between the council’s political administration and senior officers”.