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East Devon leader responds to critical report

Cllr Paul Arnott is leader of East Devon District Council

Arnott: "Authors did not interview councillors"

East Devon District Council's leader has responded to criticisms in a Radio Exe article, based on an independent report commissioned by the council about the circumstances relating to the redundancy of a member of staff.

Cllr Paul Arnott, who leads the council as part of the Democratic Alliance, last week joined the Liberal Democrats nationally in order to throw his support behind its candidate for the Tiverton & Honiton by-election Richard Foord.

The report was highly critical of issues which arose after the current administration took over from the Conservatives. As part of its conclusions, it said" It cannot be stated strongly enough the damage that has been done to the council, its reputation, its officers and members and its ability to reach its potential."

Mr Arnott has politely asked to respond to the content of Radio Exe's article, and we are publishing his comments in full here.

He writes: "Because this leaked report was made to a Part B meeting [the confidential part of a council meeting] - in order to protect the former employee - there is a limit to what I am able to state. However, I am able to correct with thanks to the editor that which was stated in the article which I have already reported at Council in Part B.

"First, this is framed as a dispute between me as the leader and the CEO. This is simply wrong.

"At every meeting discussing the matter I had four other senior councillors with me, the majority of whom did not consider this was a redundancy matter after a number of meetings. Unfortunately, the report claims to have interviewed one of the three councillors who were also statutory consultees and simply the authors did not do so.

"I have no doubt that if they had they would have not written the report as they have.

"Second, it is said that when the new administration came in back in May 2020 we declined Local Government Association (LGA) advice. The opposite is the case. With other senior councillors I had many meetings with the most senior possible LGA officers both before this matter, during it, and after it.

"Third, the report offers a view, paradoxically, that my involving the UK's most senior LGA employment officer in attempting to settle this matter was "inappropriate". This is a subjective view which I do not accept.

"Fourthly, as to any costs to the council, I am not personally responsible for a penny of that. I did not choose or commission legal advice taken by officers, and any costs of the report were agreed by full council cross-party.

"Finally, some concerns are raised about the working relationship of me as the leader and the CEO. It is very common when such a seismic political change as the Conservatives losing power at EDDC for the first time in 45 years for this relationship to require careful nurturing.

"This work has been fully done, ironically with the good offices of the LGA, and the people and members of East Devon can be assured that the council is firing on all cylinders."

You can read our original article here: https://bit.ly/3mHoU8f

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