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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Slough Council's Chief Finance Officer resigns

Mystery deepens with 2 days surprise notice
No council Good wishes to departing director Julie Evans



Julie Evans departs

Council watchers were shocked by the instant resignation of Slough Borough Council's chief finance officer Julie Evans (also known as Julie Lorraine Kennealy).

Mrs Evans is technically known, in local government circles, as the Section 151 Officer. It is one of 3 statutory positions at local councils. Mrs Evans gained her accountancy qualification at Warwick University whilst working at Cherwell District Council in Oxfordshire.

The Slough Times has continually had concerns about the circumstances in which Mrs Evans gained her university awarded qualification. Warwick University refused to reveal any details including whether off the university premises course work was included in their granting of the financial qualification.

Research by the Slough Times revealed that when Mrs Evans was studying for her Warwick University financial qualification, Mrs Evans was sharing a house, provided free by Cherwell District Council, with a competent woman accountant whom Mrs Evans is alleged to have appointed to Cherwell District Council. A Cherwell Council source told the Slough Times the woman looked similar to Mrs Evans. However the Slough Times can not corroborate that physical appearance allegation.

The Slough Times has no evidence that Mrs Evans' qualification was not properly gained and we mean no disrespect to Mrs Evans.

However we have our genuine concerns, based upon many different sources of information, about the qualification, the awarding of commercial contracts at Cherwell and Slough councils and the importation of alleged friends or associates into high-ranking council positions.

The Slough Times has no evidence Mrs Evans has done anything wrong, yet our concerns remain.

Cherwell Council destroyed some records which prevented an aspect of our enquiry. Slough Council refuses to reveal anything probably because they fear unwanted public exposure.

Local government cover-ups are routine.

Slough Council breaks  The News

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the council's press office prepared these two statements.

To all Slough Council staff

We can today (Wednesday 29 August) announce the resignation of the Strategic Director of Resources, Housing and Regeneration, Julie Evans.

The resignation has been accepted by the council and, by mutual agreement, is effective on 1 September 2012.

Ms Evans said: "It is with regret that I resign from Slough Borough Council but for personal reasons I feel I am unable to continue in my current role. I am sure the council will continue to go from strength to strength and I wish all staff the very best for the future."

For the media

Slough Borough Council can today (Wednesday 29 August) announce the resignation of the Strategic Director of Resources, Housing and Regeneration, Julie Evans.

The resignation has been accepted by the council and, by mutual agreement, is effective on 1 September 2012.

Ms Evans said: "It is with regret that I resign from Slough Borough Council but for personal reasons I feel I am unable to continue in my current role. I am sure the council will continue to go from strength to strength and I wish all staff the very best for the future."

The Julie Evans controversy

News reporter Terry Pattinson wrote in the Slough Express published on 28 October 2011, page 10, about Slough Borough Council's official Annual Accounts presented to the Audit Commission.

Council criticised by Audit Commission
Report cites weaknesses plus bad maths and spelling

The article quotes a former council Leader saying the mess was a scandal, Mrs Evans accepting full responsibility and the existence of inaccurate annual accounts.

Copy retained; reference A243

The auditor's report Accounts 2010-211, written by a mild-mannered person using tender, pleasant and delicate language, is widely thought not to accurately represent the harsh and damning criticisms of the accounts mess that gravely embarrassed the local authority.

The mess cost Slough Council an extra £30,000 in auditing fees.

The Slough Times understands that Julie Evans, also known as Julie Kennealy, was subsequently off work for several months immediately prior to her sudden departure.

Sources told the Slough Times the official version was Mrs Evans was ill. A council source alleged Mrs Evans was on so called gardening leave. It is thought that difficulties at work arising from the uncovering of financial mistakes and omissions for which Mrs Evans, as the council's financial chief, was ultimately responsible may have caused Mrs Evans substantial stress.

All attempts by the Slough Times to clarify the nature of Mrs Evans' prolonged absence from work and to ascertain the truth was robustly rejected by Slough Borough Council. The Slough Times thinks the reason is another council cover-up of incompetence by council officials wishing to conceal their personal embarrassment and to protect their professional reputations and high salaries.

Update ~~~~~~

On Friday, 31 August 2012, the Slough Observer's front page story, by reporter John Dickens, about Julie Evan's resignation, included:-

Councillors outraged after finance chief's exit

..... amid allegations of 'cover up' ..... £126,767 post ..... long term absence for four months .....

The council's finances were then slammed in a damning external audit from the Audit Commission in October last year - exposing the council's system for procuring goods and services needed an 'overhaul'.

(comment by councillor) Is this something to do with the auditor's report and exposing the council rolled over contracts without tendering them properly?

End of update ~~~~~~

Slough Council's 2009 press release

August 3 2009 SENT/09

New Strategic Director of Resources for Council

Slough Borough Council will be welcoming a new strategic director of resources to the borough in October.

Julie Evans, who is currently working as the strategic director for resources and customer services at Cherwell District Council in Banbury, will take over the role of Slough’s Strategic Director of Resources.

Julie brings a breadth of experience from the public and private sector across all the principal functions of the Resources directorate, as well as local knowledge of Slough as a former resident.

Ms Evans first experienced working in local government in 1989, in fact her first role was at Slough Borough Council as a resources and development officer for three years.

Julie said:

I enjoyed working at Slough Borough Council 20 years ago, so it was a hugely exciting prospect for me to come back having gained a wealth of new skills and experience in the public and private sectors.

I’m really impressed by the positive changes that have happened within the area and am delighted to come back to Slough at such an exciting time for the borough with the fantastic Heart of Slough scheme.

Slough Borough Council’s chief executive, Ruth Bagley, added:

I’m delighted Julie has accepted the role and I look forward to her arrival in October. She will bring with her a wealth of knowledge and experience and help guide Slough through the next generation, in particular with the Heart of Slough.

Ends

For more media information, please contact Samantha Daynes on 01753 875026

The total absence of any good wishes from Slough Unitary Authority (operating as 'Slough Borough Council') to Mrs Evans suggests, in the honest opinion of the Slough Times, that SUA chief executive and Head of Paid Service Ruth Bagley OBE was desperate to terminate Mrs Evans with the minimum of fuss and publicity.

SUA paid Mrs Evans £60,000 in circumstances SUA have refused to clarify.

Sources say Mrs Evans was off work for 4 months when her surprise resignation was announced by SUA. The speed of Mrs Evan's departure was astonishingly fast. Normally SUA does not issue press releases announcing staff decisions to resign, but does issue press releases praising and thanking departing senior staff. Receptions (farewell parties) have been held on council property by departing senior staff. The Slough Times understands this did not happen when Mrs Evans departed.

Warwick University, who awarded Mrs Evans with a qualification that enabled her to become a local authority Chief Finance Officer (also known as a 'Section 151 Officer') destroyed the examination papers 6 months after the examination. That prevented comparison of Mrs Evan's distinctive handwriting with the handwriting on the examination paper.

The university admits the only identity check on examination candidates was a small plastic card with a tiny photograph placed on the candidate's desk. The Slough Times believes it would have been difficult for examination invigilators to properly compare the photograph on the card, laying on the desk, with the candidate sitting at the desk.

The Slough Times has no evidence of any irregularity or wrong-doing by Mrs Evans.

Our curiosity and concern derives from third-party witnesses, allegations relating to previous employment at Cherwell District Council and at a London Borough Council (believed to be Merton) and our research supporting a plausible explanation for the inconsistency between Mrs Evan's university awarded qualification and our practical knowledge of Mrs Evan's abilities.