South Somerset councillor speaks out
Following the revelations in The Leveller® last week, Cllr Martin Wale has sent us a statement.
The background is as follows. Last Tuesday SSDC issued a statement in response to an article on Leveller.Live. You can read it here https://leveller.live/2021/12/14/south-somerset-respond-to-the-leveller-article/
In it they claimed they always intended to keep the public informed about a scandal involving two former employees. Two days later on 18 November there was a full council meeting of SSDC. At that meeting all discussion of the scandal was held in camera. It did not look like the action of an authority that intended to inform the public.
But it is not just the public that have been kept in the dark. Councillors too have been left knowing next to nothing. Not everyone has been happy about the secrecy and cover up surrounding this affair.
Today Cllr Martin Wale contacted The Leveller® with a statement about the controversial. Cllr Wale told us what he had said during the in camera session of that Full Council meeting: “this Council has been misled and misinformed over serious allegations of Corruption, Fraud and bullying which have been known since at least April 2021. As I’m sure you recall this Council was called to ratify the appointment of the one selection for the Chief Executive Role in May.
Also you will recall being informed by the Leader and the then Chief Executive, via Zoom from New Zealand, that the only one choice was the proper and best person for the CEO role. It is now clear that these serious allegations were known to both before this meeting.
Councillors have a right when appointing to this most senior role to be given all relevant information to make a proper decision. Why would any responsible person make glowing recommendations to a full Council when they had knowledge of these serious allegations? A short time later we are informed that the new Chief Executive was no longer able to perform the role for personal reasons! Still no mention of the allegations.”
In fact he pointed out that “The only reason I have any knowledge of these matters is because I sat on a recent Appeal hearing which upheld the decision of the Appointments Panel to Dismiss the Appellant.”
Cllr Wale went on to question the secrecy with which the whole affair had been conducted. He told us “I firmly believe that the point between confidentiality and public interest has been well and truly crossed.“
He also questioned the confidence that councillors could have in council Leader, Val Keitch: “whatever party we may represent we are all representing SSDC and as such have to have confidence in whoever is Leader of the Council. That confidence has been more than severely tested over the handling of this matter.”
And here is an interesting point. This should be a non partisan issue. Councillor Wale may be a Conservative councillor, but the other councillors at SSDC are now in the spotlight. There are many decent LibDem councillors and others who have legitimate questions to ask. Will they ask them?
Councillors have an opportunity to stand up and be counted. Is this sort of secrecy and cover up acceptable?
It is worth remembering that there are elections next May to a new unitary authority. Perhaps some councillors think this sort of cover up and secrecy is acceptable. It is equally possible that the electorate may not share their views.