Max Caller set to lead governance review at Northumberland County Council

A local government enforcer has been recruited to lead a governance review at Northumberland County Council after a series of scandals rocked the authority.

There have been serious concerns about the functioning of the council since August 2020, when chief executive Daljit Lally OBE was placed on “extended leave” after raising whistleblower concerns.

She then returned to work after council leader Peter Jackson lost a vote of no confidence in September of that year, losing by a single vote after members of his own administration turned against him.

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It has now been confirmed by County Council that Max Caller CBE will lead a review of governance within the authority.

Mr Caller has also been recruited to produce reports on the bankrupt Tory-led Northamptonshire County Council and the Labour-led Liverpool City Council.

Mr Caller led Best Value Inspections in Northamptonshire and Liverpool and was Commissioner at Tower Hamlets.

Max Caller, former Chief Executive of Brent Council who was called up by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles as Commissioner of Tower Hamlets Council

He is a former Chief Executive of the London Boroughs of Hackney and Barnet and former Chairman of the Local Government Boundaries Commission for England.

The report on Liverpool, respected for three months, was described as “scathing” by the Liverpool Echo and highlighted a series of shocking failures.

The council confirmed that the organization Solace, of which Mr. Caller is an associate, would lead the review.

A spokesperson said: “The Deputy Leader of the Council has commissioned SOLACE to conduct an external review of the Council’s corporate governance. This follows consultations with senior officials and opposition party group leaders. .

“The purpose of the review is to highlight areas for improvement and we expect there will be learning for everyone, and an opportunity for the board to adapt and change the way we do business.”

The news was welcomed by leaders of the council’s two main political parties.

Councilor Glen Sanderson, Conservative Leader and Council Leader, said: “It’s something I’ve wanted to have since I became Chief.

Glen Sanderson, Leader of Northumberland County Council
Glen Sanderson, Leader of Northumberland County Council

“As the new leader, it was important that someone told us what we’re doing well and what we need to look at. It’s the healthiest thing to do.

“I need to get a good view of the board and what we’re doing well, and what we need to improve.”

Mr Sanderson added that he did not know Mr Caller but was “looking forward” to meeting him later this week.

Labor leader Scott Dickinson welcomed the review, adding Ms Lally’s suspension showed it was necessary – but added he felt it was an unusual step for a council.

A man in a light blue suit with a red pocket square stands with his hands clasped on a surface in front of him, with a serious expression on his face
Northumberland Labor Leader Scott Dickinson

He said: “From our point of view, it’s really important that someone from outside the organization comes in and examines the behavior of members towards leaders and how and if elected officials understand the difference between the role of leadership and elected roles, and some governance of how it works.

“The need for governance review – these things don’t happen in the ordinary world. Never before has Northumberland seen a leader removed from office for incompetence and failure to lead the board.”

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