Watchdogs rap troubled town council

By Dave GooderhamA TROUBLED town council has been criticised by local government watchdogs after making 14 allegations of councillor misconduct this year.

By Dave Gooderham

A TROUBLED town council has been criticised by local government watchdogs after making 14 allegations of councillor misconduct this year.

The Standards Board for England has been inundated with complaints about members of Haverhill Town Council this year as the accusations that have dogged the authority for the past year show no sign of abating.

It is currently investigating allegations against three town councillors and now local government watchdogs have called on the authority to refocus its thoughts on giving residents what they wanted.

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Mary Mitson-Woods, chief executive of Suffolk Association of Local Councils, said: "We are of course concerned about the issues within Haverhill Town Council.

"To have so many members reported is unusually high, especially when in the majority of councils there is no complaints."

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She added: "Councillors need to focus on the provision of services for their community – that is their priority.

"The association would like to reiterate that it is always available for the chairman, deputy chairman and clerk of a town or parish council to seek advice on ethical matters – and 65% of complaints are thrown out because they are frivolous."

A spokeswoman for the Standards Board of England confirmed it was currently investigating allegations made against town councillors Gerry Kiernan, Jacqueline Rudd and Nicholas Whelan.

Ms Rudd is being investigated following a complaint that she allegedly failed to declare an interest.

Mr Kiernan has been accused of using his position improperly, failing to declare a personal interest, failing to withdraw from a meeting where there was a personal interest and bringing the office into disrepute.

The allegations made against Mr Whelan are that he brought the office into disrepute, he failed to treat others with respect, discrimination and using his position improperly.

The Standards Board of England spokeswoman also revealed there had been two further complaints about Ms Rudd, one against Mr Whelan and two against Mabon Dane – but these had subsequently been dropped.

Mr Dane has called on his fellow members to become less political and more responsible in the wake of the complaints.

"I call upon my fellow town councillors to really look at themselves and their attitudes on the council," he added.

"It is clear when individuals are under investigation that this suggests that political and personal interests are being pursued of no benefit to the council or residents.

"If Haverhill Town Council can become less political, it will benefit everyone all round."

Speaking last year, Mr Kiernan said: "We need to bring some sense of stability to the council and work together for the benefit of Haverhill.

"Any councillor, no matter what party, should want to stop this in-fighting and put Haverhill first."

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