Kingston Council’s new Conservative administration plans to spend up to £10,000 investigating the activities of disgraced former leader Derek Osbourne.
A report has been prepared outlining recommendations by new Tory leader Kevin Davis, for an independent investigation into the ex-Liberal Democrat leader’s tenure at the head of the council, which came to an abrupt end last year following his arrest for downloading and distributing child pornography.
The report said the inquiry would be carried out by a “suitably experienced and qualified person” who is independent from the council – to be chosen by the corporate solicitor in consultation with Coun Davis.
The person will be authorised to interview current and former council officers, partner organisations and any other party considered “appropriate” within the remit of the investigation.
Relevant council papers and minutes from Lib Dem group meetings concerning safeguarding, education and the Rose Theatre – which Osbourne supported – will also be made available to whoever chairs the inquiry.
A budget of £10,000 will be set aside to cover the cost of the investigation, according to the report.
Osbourne, 60, pictured, is serving a two-year prison sentence for downloading and distributing thousands of images of children, animals and women being violently and sexually abused.
At the time of his arrest in June 2013, he was leading the council’s efforts to improve its tattered child safeguarding reputation, following a damning Ofsted report the previous year.
A subsequent police investigation found no connection between Osbourne’s offences and his role at the council.
The report, that goes to the council’s policy and finances committee on Thursday, said the inquiry seeks to establish any evidence of “improper” behaviour by Osbourne in his public duties, with “specific emphasis on children and young people”.
It will explore “whether Mr Osbourne...was able to direct public funds towards areas in which he had a particular interest (eg, youth groups and the theatrical performing arts sector) and whether he had any involvement in these interests outside his formal role as leader of the council”.
But Lib Dem leader Liz Green, who succeeded Osbourne after he was dumped by the party, questioned the legality of the inquiry, as well as the proposed budget.
She said: “It’s like they’re setting up a select committee, but I don’t believe they have the power to do that.
“I think ourselves and Labour will also have something to say about the council leader appointing the chairman – that’s not independent.
“They will have to pay for the corporate solicitor’s time, as well as the inquiry chair – £10,000 doesn’t sound like it’s going to go a long way.”