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Bullying allegation emerges within council Labour group

PUBLISHED: 06:59 20 July 2019 | UPDATED: 06:59 20 July 2019

Labour Councillor Sarah Adams was required to issue a public apology to Sandra Gage, after an investigation by a standards panel. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Labour Councillor Sarah Adams was required to issue a public apology to Sandra Gage, after an investigation by a standards panel. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A senior council group leader has publicly apologised to a Labour party colleague who had complained she had been bullied by her.

Sandra Gage called for councillors to be included in the council's wellbeing policy following the investigation. Picture: IBCSandra Gage called for councillors to be included in the council's wellbeing policy following the investigation. Picture: IBC

Sarah Adams, leader of the opposition Labour group at Suffolk County Council, was ordered to make the public apology by the authority's standards committee following a complaint made by former acting party leader Sandra Gage.

A joint standards hearing determined that Ms Adams was in breach of three areas of the code of conduct and ordered her to make a full apology at the next full council meeting which was held on Thursday.

Addressing the council, Ms Adams said: "Councillor Gage and I have known each other for many years, since before being elected to this council. We have not always seen eye to eye.

"Whilst I reject some of the conclusions reached in the report, as does Councillor Gage, I am pleased her complaint has only been partially upheld.

"On reflection I accept on some occasions my interactions with her may not have always maintained the proper levels of professionalism.

"I am sorry to you councillor Gage and my fellow councillors.

"I hope we can now draw a line under this and return to do what we do best - representing the good people of Suffolk."

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The hearing's decision, which was made on July 8, said: "In reaching their decision the hearing panel had found sufficient evidence that councillor Sarah Adams was undertaking council functions at the time of the alleged conduct, and that by behaving as she did, had brought her office into disrepute by failing to abide by the Suffolk code of Conduct under the following paragraphs:-

1) You must treat others with respect.

2) You must not bully any person

3) You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or council into disrepute

"In reaching their determination the hearing panel, whilst recognising that there was a political dimension to the situation, felt that bullying in any climate should not be tolerated and that councillor Adams had behaved in an inappropriate manner showing a lack of respect and leadership that was essential to her office."

It is understood that Ms Adams has her party's backing to continue as leader.

In a statement issued following the meeting, Ms Gage said it ended a "difficult 18 months" and hoped councillors could be included in the health, safety and wellbeing guidelines in place for all council staff.

She added: "In the last eighteen months I have had very good reasons for asking Suffolk County Council what its duty of care for councillors is.

"It takes a lot of courage and emotional strength to formally accuse someone of bullying, to be listened to and for appropriate action taken."

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