Council review branded ridiculous

By Dave GooderhamAN independent review into how a district council operates has been branded "absolutely ridiculous".The Improvement and Development Agency's peer review has accused some Forest Heath district councillors of harassing staff and leaking classified information.

By Dave Gooderham

AN independent review into how a district council operates has been branded "absolutely ridiculous".

The Improvement and Development Agency's peer review has accused some Forest Heath district councillors of harassing staff and leaking classified information.

Robert Newman, who represents Eriswell and The Rows ward, admitted some of the criticism was probably aimed at him and criticised the cost of the £6,000 report.


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"I think the report is absolutely ridiculous and it is outrageous when all a group of people can do is criticise," he said.

"The only constructive things that have come out, we could have come up with ourselves if we just sat round a table and asked what members of the public wanted."

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The peer review highlighted claims certain councillors had behaved in "aggressive" and "inappropriate" ways.

It said: "During our interviews with staff, politicians and stakeholders, we heard of several different examples of inappropriate behaviour by members.

"This ranged from aggressive behaviour amongst members and to officers, to suggestions of the leaking of classified information, to suggestions of harassment of staff."

Council chairman Don Levick said he was aware of such behaviour by councillors and added: "The peer review is not telling lies and there have been cases of inappropriate behaviour of councillors."

Forest Heath District Council spokeswoman, Sally Rode, said: "Statements in the peer review report have been noted. It is not for us to comment further on this issue."

The review revealed the council was currently at a "crossroads" and needed to decide its future direction.

But it declared positive examples of "new ways of operating, thinking and behaving" were already emerging from the authority.

The district council was praised by the panel for its work with the horse racing industry in Newmarket, leading a community legal partnership and their work in recycling.

The peer review team concluded: "Changing a way a council does business is not easy, especially when the old patterns of behaviour are considered to be the norm.

"But the review team is confident Forest Heath has the capacity at both member and officer levels to improve."

The review report, which is believed to have cost £6,000 to Council Tax payers, is intended to help Forest Heath councillors and staff move forward to its comprehensive performance assessment in June when the authority will be awarded a grade based on how well it was performing.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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