Council chief appoints new monitoring officer via emergency powers
- Credit: West Norfolk council
A Norfolk council chief executive has appointed a new monitoring officer after the decision was taken out of the hands of elected councillors due to the pandemic.
Alexa Baker, a local government solicitor from Eastlaw, has been appointed monitoring officer of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council (KLWNBC).
The appointment was made last month after the council’s chief executive Lorraine Gore was granted powers to take statutory decisions due to the coronavirus outbreak suspending the council’s ability to hold meetings.
The new monitoring officer’s appointment was made after the former post-holder Emma Duncan stepped down to focus on her role as head of legal services at North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), where she also carries out the monitoring officer position.
The decision was taken by the chief executive due to the legal powers she has to “protect the interests and well being of the inhabitants of the borough and the council where it is considered necessary and desirable”.
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The powers, under section nine of the council’s scheme of delegation, mean she must take decisions “in consultation with the leader of the council and the relevant portfolio holder”, and after notifying the “relevant decision making body”.
The move was announced as a series of urgent decisions taken by the chief executive were published by the council, and was taken on Thursday, April 16.
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The council’s notice of the new appointment stated: “The existing monitoring officer has resigned from the position to focus on her role at NNDC. The monitoring officer is a statutory appointment and has specific responsibilities in respect of ensuring good governance within the authority.”
The role entails alerting the council to any risks of illegality or maladministration, being responsible for the conduct of members and officers, carrying out investigations, and taking responsibility for the constitution.
The notice added: “It is proposed that Alexa Baker be appointed. Ms Baker is a local government lawyer, therefore is appropriately qualified and experienced for the role.”
She was appointed to the position with immediate effect.
Ms Baker joined Eastlaw in 2015, where her area of practice is civil litigation, such as property, housing and employment.
She also advises on commercial contracts and public procurement.