‘Hospitality rules now clearly understood’
Apr 22 2008 by Sam Casey, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
TRUSTEES behind the running of Kirklees sports centres have defended their organisation after a council watchdog committee rejected calls for an inquiry into how it is run.
As reported in the Examiner, Kirklees Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, turned down a request from Clr David Woodhead to investigate Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL).
The Holme Valley North councillor made the call after a series of revelations in the Examiner about an investigation last year into a series of hospitality trips taken by senior staff.
Bosses went to Las Vegas and Italy on fact-finding jaunts paid for by businesses.
There were also allegations they had been on golfing days, motor racing trips, horse racing days, a clay pigeon shooting outing and rugby and football matches.
KAL runs 10 centres and swimming pools, including Huddersfield Sports Centre, off Southgate.
KAL’s investigation found the trips broke strict rules that ban staff from accepting corporate invitations which could be deemed extravagant or inappropriate.
Former chief executive Terry Meehan was suspended last year and later resigned.
But the overview and scrutiny management committee said it was satisfied the matter had been dealt with.
And the KAL board of trustees has insisted the organisation is now back on track.
Chairman David Heddon said: “Last year it came to the trustees’ attention that hospitality had been accepted without proper records being kept and enough thought given about whether it should have been accepted.
“The trustees commissioned an extensive, externally conducted investigation that confirmed that some rules had not been followed but that there had been no financial implications for the trust.
“No public money was involved.
“Trustees have ensured that hospitality rules are now clearly understood throughout the organisation and the trust’s audit committee’s role has been increased to ensure compliance in this area.
“The matter was dealt with almost a year ago.”
KAL is now looking to appoint Mr Meehan’s successor.
Mr Heddon said it was a rigorous recruitment process, supported by council staff.
He said clear procedures and protocols were in place regarding hospitality. And he added it was the trustees’ job to hold senior managers to account.
Mr Heddon said the reason for Mr Meehan’s resignation was confidential.
But he added the former chief executive had done a good job.
he said: “Terry Meehan was instrumental in helping KAL to be the successful organisation it is today.
“We are now well on with the process of securing his replacement to allow us to build positively on the foundations that Terry helped us lay.
“Trustees and other senior staff have been holding the fort in terms of making sure the organisation performs to its usually high standards whilst our recruitment takes shape.”
But Clr Woodhead said he still had concerns.
He said: “There are still issues about the way KAL accounts for its actions to the council and the ways in which councillors can be kept informed of what is happening internally.
“KAL is a publicly funded body and its operations must be transparent to scrutiny by local people.
“We are united in ensuring that leisure facilities in Kirklees are well run and deliver a quality service for all its residents and visitors.”
Clr Molly Walton, chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Management committee, said the committee had heard KAL was performing well.
She added: “In relation to allegations surrounding hospitality trips, the committee was pleased to hear that the trustees had investigated the issue thoroughly and that procedures are in place.
“Staff have received further training to ensure that they fully understand their responsibilities.
“The management committee was satisfied with the information and felt there was nothing further to be gained by setting up a full scrutiny investigation.”