Opposition councillors question why Slough chief executive missed meetings

James Bagley. Local Democracy Reporter

Opposition councillors question why Slough chief executive missed meetings

Questions over Slough Council’s chief executive’s whereabouts were raised after she did not attend important meetings on fixing the town’s finances.

Opposition councillors have questioned why CEO Josie Wragg was a no-show at an extraordinary audit meeting on September 14 and a full council meeting on September 23.

Speaking at the full council meeting, Cllr Wayne Strutton (Haymill & Lynch Hill), leader of the opposing Conservatives, said he received two reasons why the chief executive is not in attendance and asked for confirmation if this was a planned leave or an absence.

He said: “As leader of the opposition, I have not been informed. The chairman of the audit asked where she was and other officers on the night, and again she’s not here today but we had a very basic outline.

“To be honest, as far as I’m concerned as the leader of the opposition and I know at least one of the independent members, is not happy with that answer and feel we should’ve been given more detail as to why.”

The leader of the council, Cllr James Swindlehurst (Lab: Cippenham Green), said the CEO had to go home for an 'emergency' at the night of the audit meeting but did plan on attending.

He added the reason why she’s not at the full council meeting was that she is on planned leave, which was discussed with himself and the monitoring officer.

A spokesman for the council said Josie 'is not currently in office' but did not reveal when she will return.

However, an email sent to councillors and council officers states the executive board 'will be undertaking the main leadership function' in Josie’s absence.

The board is made up of senior council officers such as Steven Mair, director of finance, and Alan Sinclair, executive director for people (adults).

The group of executives will convene weekly to 'ensure decisions are made properly and with appropriate speed' to meet the council’s huge financial challenge.

However, they said they have 'growing confidence' the council can achieve a balanced budget for 2021/22 and 2022/23. The executive board will also be crunching the numbers for 2023/24 in early October.

The email states: “We have made a real start. We can’t change the task we have in front of us. There is a long way to go. But these changes will have a real beneficial impact and make the task ahead easier on all of us and all of you.”

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