Mayor says sorry for town clerk 'slur'

A MAYOR has publicly apologised on behalf of his town council after the locks on the clerk's office were suddenly changed when the clerk was controversially forced to retire.

By Richard Smith

A MAYOR has publicly apologised on behalf of his town council after the locks on the clerk's office were suddenly changed when the clerk was controversially forced to retire.

Members of the public packed the public gallery at the Moot Hall, Aldeburgh, to pay tribute to loyal clerk Andrew Harris who had to give up his clerk's position after 15 years when he turned 65 at the start of February.

The council brought in a new policy last year that the clerk had to retire at 65 and, although Mr Harris was interviewed when he reapplied for his job, it was then awarded to a young woman from Stowmarket.


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The public were angry at the coincidence and slur on Mr Harris's character that the locks were changed when he left his job - and the mayor John Digby was forced to apologise at the full council meeting.

Mr Digby said: “The timing was, shall we say, unsympathetic and it looked worse than it was. I apologise on behalf of the town council.”

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This failed to appease the public and Dennis Peel, licensee of the Mill Inn, said the council had treated Mr Harris with “total disrespect” and that the clerk had been “stabbed in the back”.

Cllr Michael Good said: “The locks were changed as a routine thing. We do not know who are the old keyholders and therefore it was thought it would be a simple and secure thing to carry out the changing of the locks.”

The row over the resignation of the clerk has led some members of the public to complain about the conduct of the present town council.

But Stephen Hawes, a councillor for 35 years, defended their ability and said the councillors representing Aldeburgh were of a “very high calibre”.

“The present council has received a lot of flak of late but it is in my mind one of the best the town has been fortunate to elect and an immense amount of work has gone on in three years,” he said.

“The few hours spent in the council chamber are for many a fraction of the time they give towards the interest of the town.”

Mr Harris did not have a pension with the council and he has received a tax-free gratuity of £9,000.

Mr Digby said: “The money will come from the reserves. Unfortunately the past council had not agreed anything on a town clerk pension or proper contract and that is why we were in this mess.”

Mr Harris said yesterday he remained disappointed the council had brought in the retirement policy without warning him in advance.

The public will be allowed to inspect the scorecards made during the interviews for the town clerk's job, the meeting also heard.

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