Tory councillors suspended for year
TWO Tory councillors were last night suspended from their posts for 12 months for breaching an authority's code of conduct.Ipswich borough councillors Stephen Barker and Gordon Terry were reported to the Standards Board for England, accused of bringing the council into disrepute and failing to treat a council officer with respect.
By Danielle Nuttall
TWO Tory councillors were last night suspended from their posts for 12 months for breaching an authority's code of conduct.
Ipswich borough councillors Stephen Barker and Gordon Terry were reported to the Standards Board for England, accused of bringing the council into disrepute and failing to treat a council officer with respect.
An adjudication panel at the town's Novotel yesterday heard how Mr Terry drafted a letter in the name of Mr Barker alleging Sue Arnold, the council's head of strategic planning and regeneration, was a "political aid" to the Ipswich council Labour group.
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The letter was sent before a council meeting in September and read: "Mrs Arnold does not appear to act professionally and impartially. Rather her actions are those of a political aid."
At the conclusion of yesterday's hearing, David Laverick, president of The Adjudication Panel for England, decided the councillors should each be suspended as a member of the authority for one year.
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He also recommended the council established procedures and notified councillors to govern the way complaints from councillors about members of staff were dealt with.
Mr Laverick said the information available to the tribunal showed the criticisms of a senior officer had not resulted in any council investigation and added that one should now take place.
But he stressed the panel had no view as to whether there was any substance in the criticisms contained within the letter.
Mr Laverick said: "Even if there is substance in the content (a matter on which the case tribunal expresses no view), the tone was disrespectful.
"Writing a letter, which was intended to have a wider circulation than the leader and the chief executive and which contained a personal attack on an officer in the terms used in that letter, would be regarded by those with knowledge of the facts as lowering the reputation of local government generally.
"Not least is a lowering of the reputation of the office held by the two councillors who have acted that way."
Speaking after the case, Mr Terry said the pair would be seriously considering an appeal, which would have to be lodged with the High Court within 28 days.
Ipswich Borough Council declined to comment yesterday.
But in a submission made to the panel, Ipswich council chief executive Jim Hehir said Mrs Arnold was an extremely competent officer with a national reputation.
"Mrs Arnold has seen the letter of September 30, 2002. She was shocked and deeply upset by the comments about her made in the letter."