Suffolk: Council broadens probe into Andrea Hill
PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 June 2011
A DISCIPLINARY panel has broadened the scope of its probe into the conduct of controversial council boss Andrea Hill.
Suffolk County Council’s dismissals appeals committee met to discuss an “anonymous whistle-blowing complaint” against the chief executive.
But instead of ruling on whether Mrs Hill had a case to answer it made a surprise move by asking for her expense claims to be studied in greater depth.
It was prompted by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the EADT that revealed Mrs Hill stayed at two of Suffolk’s most upmarket hotels at taxpayers’ expense.
The county council last year spent £170 on two stays for Mrs Hill at Milsom’s Kesgrave Hall and £120 for a night at Brudenell in Aldeburgh. The chief executive’s hotel bills came to £1,784.72 in 2010/11, including three nights at a £205-a-night hotel in Sandbanks during a Bournemouth conference, while her colleagues stayed at more modest £85-a-night accommodation. The expenses for Mrs Hill’s Sandbanks stay was signed off by then monitoring officer Eric Whitfield, who quit the council suddenly in March.
The committee will hear a report into Mrs Hill’s expenses at its next meeting on June 24, plunging the county council into a further bout of uncertainty. Mrs Hill has been on extended leave since Easter and this latest twist will see her spend at least a further three weeks away from Endeavour House.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “The dismissals appeals committee today received a preliminary report into whistle-blowing allegations made against Andrea Hill.
“The committee was able to resolve some of the allegations however it felt that a number required further investigation.
“In addition as a result of FOI requests into expense claims by Andrea Hill the committee has asked the investigation team to review those claims.
“The findings of the team will be reported to the committee at their next meeting on June 24.
“Andrea Hill will remain on extended leave by mutual consent until that date.
“Suffolk County Council is anxious that all investigations are completed and resolved as soon as possible in the interests of all those involved.”
Opposition leader Kathy Pollard said: “Obviously the public want a resolution to this but the council is going to have to go through all the procedures and make sure it dots all the Is and crosses all the Ts. People are going to have to be patient.
“But the council has to do this properly otherwise it will cost them an awful lot more money.
“I don’t think it [extending the scope of the investigation] has muddied the waters, it’s another line of inquiry that the council is pursuing. It’s right to do that.”