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Teignbridge councillor quits over watchdog report

Tuesday, 21 February 2023 06:00

By Philip Churm, local democracy reporter

Parish Cllr Jane Taylor (Image: Newton Says No)

Cllr Jane Taylor accuses leaders

A member of the committee which keeps a check on how well Teignbridge councillors are doing their jobs has resigned, accusing leaders of not taking seriously a damning report by the local government watchdog.

In an open letter to Teignbridge District Council (TDC) monitoring officer Paul Woodhead, published on the ‘Kingskerswell – Have your say’ Facebook group, Jane Taylor, accused council leaders of not accepting the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

Cllr Taylor, who is a parish councillor in Kingskerswell, accused TDC of not accepting the ombudsman’s report and described it as a council “who are out of control, who show no remorse for their behaviour and who have no intention of being accountable for their actions.”

It followed an extraordinary council meeting on Tuesday 14 February to debate the findings of a highly critical report by the local government watchdog.

The ombudsman said an investigation by TDC into the conduct of South Devon Alliance Group Leader, Cllr Richard Daws, was flawed and “found fault with a number of aspects of the council’s investigation.”

Cllr Taylor, who previously stood as a candidate for ‘Newton Says No’ – the predecessor to the South Devon Alliance – added: “It has become very clear to me that the bullying of anyone who challenges the council is blatant and unacceptable. It would not be tolerated in any other workplace and I want no part in it.”

But leader of TDC, Lib Dem councillor for Kenton & Starcross, Alan Connett described suggestions he did not take the ombudsman’s report seriously as “a load of old nonsense.” 

He added: “For a start, I apologised as leader of the council to Cllr Daws on the 19th of January when the ombudsman’s report was published. I repeated that and we stated that apology in full at the council meeting and it was very clear, I think if you read the words we accept, in full and without reservation, the report and the recommendation of the ombudsman.”

Cllr Taylor also accused Cllr Connett of not accepting the finding of the report because he called for a letter to be written to the Secretary of State “challenging the authority of the ombudsman’s involvement.”

Cllr Connett said that was not true and he was determined to ensure the council carried out the recommendations. 

“It suits some people to ignore the inconvenient and focus on their own particular spin,” he said. 

“That’s been a huge difficulty for the council over several years because the SDA don’t like to be confronted with the facts. 

“I was concerned that the council accepted the recommendations without reservation and we implement them. So, it’s my leadership that has enabled that meeting to happen.”

TDC, last week, voted to accept the findings of the report, apologise to Cllr Daws and for the standards committee to review its processes where necessary.

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