Assembly Director, Stephen Barber, was asked a series of questions on 10th November. His answers are in blue below and were received on 23rd November 2004. Neil Herron's observations are in red.
Answers required from the North East Assembly Director
North East Assembly
Newcastle Upon Tyne
10th November 2004
I hope you don't mind us turning our attentions now on the unelected North East Assembly so quickly even before the embers of Prescott's bonfire have cooled, but you know how impatient we are.May I start by saying, and I know that you know that I mean this, that this is not personal, and it is unfortunate that it is you and the unelected North East Assembly that is about to come under intense scrutiny.We will not rest until the Assembly is disbanded and we have been contacted by thousands of people across the region who are incensed to say the least, at being deceived. They realise that they have been conned and that they are still paying for an Assembly that they never asked for, and thought they had rejected. To argue that they rejected an elected version to be content with an unelected form will unfortunately fan the flames of their anger even higher.
So, we can begin the process of assisting with transparency I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions:
1. Can you please forward details (either electronically or hard copy) of the latest accounts for the North East Assembly, and the most recent subscriptions paid by the local authorities?
In response to your e-mail of 10 November;
(1) I expect to have the audited accounts for the Association and Assembly for 2003/04 within the next few weeks. I'll send you a copy of them as soon as they are to hand. As you know, the Association and the Assembly share a joint budget. I've put in the post to you a list of the local authority subscriptions for the current year.
This was received 24th November and details of the 2004/5 subscriptions will be posted in the following post.
2. Can you please confirm that the Assembly is still pursuing incorporation? If so, under what Limited Company title?
(2) Members of the Assembly and of the Association have taken the decision to defer moving towards establishing new companies until June 2005.
They will still find it difficult to do so as Neil Herron has already registered North East Assembly Ltd. as a company.
However, this leaves ANEC/NEA in a difficult position as they have no legal personality, therefore the members appear to be jointly and severally liable.
3. Can you please provide a full list of all employees, their job description and salary and the nature of their contract (whether temporary or permanent) and the who is responsible for potential redundancy and pension arrangements?4. Some authorities still seem to think that they are only supporting ANEC and not funding the NEA. Can you please clarify the situation and detail the relationship, administrative and financial, between ANEC and NEA for the record?(3) Staff are employed by the Association of North East Councils who have the usual responsibilities as employer. Staff have permanent contracts of employment. It would not be appropriate to reveal individual salaries which are personal to the person concerned. The total salary bill can be read from the accounts. The Assembly and Association websites have details of the staff.
Stephen makes the mistake here by saying that ANEC is the employer, but the subscriptions are paid to ANEC/NEA and they have shared staff and a shared budget. Therefore ANEC/NEA must be the employer. It will be interesting to find out exactly what the employment contract states.
Points to be made include:
'Who is responsible for the redundancy payments should the assembly be forced to close?
'Is ANEC/NEA legally entitled to create a cost burden on the ratepayers of individual North East authorities?'
' As an unincorporated association will it be the members personal responsibility to fulfil the financial obligations and meet any shortfall arising from the creation of the permanent posts of the assembly?'
' Should the assembly be caught out again misusing public money then will the members be liable and guilty of 'Misfeasance of Public Office?'
5. Can you please provide full contact details of all assembly members and the expenses remuneration package they receive for attendance?
(5) I've sent you a copy of a note setting out Members allowances relating to attendance at Assembly meetings. The Assembly website includes details of Members.
This will be posted along with a full list of members in the following posts.
Obviously there will be more as this whole affair comes under close scrutiny, but I am sure this will suffice for the time being.
I look forward to your response.
12 Frederick Street
Tel. 0191 565 7143
cc. Hilary Knox, Assistant Director
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
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