Drawing a line under row over resignation

Kate Cairns
Kate Cairns

Councillors aimed to draw a line under a row over the former clerk’s resignation by issuing an apology for publishing allegations in draft minutes.

Just prior to the previous meeting of Newton-by-the-Sea Parish Council, in September, the clerk stood down and her resignation email, which included allegations of ‘harassment and personal intimidation’ directed at Coun Kate Cairns, was published in full in the draft minutes. The text of the letter was later removed following advice.

At the September meeting, at which Coun Cairns was not present, the council also agreed to seek advice from the county council and the Northumberland Association of Local Councils (NALC) as it ‘was strongly felt by all councillors that guidance should be sought concerning the difficulties that have arisen relating to Coun Cairns’.

Challenged about both issues at last Wednesday’s meeting by Coun Cairns, the chairman, Coun John Roper, said that the former clerk does not wish to make any formal complaint or take the matter any further.

A report based on advice from the county council’s monitoring officer and NALC was circulated to members and accepted, which means ‘the best way forward is to tighten up the procedures so we reduce the workload of the clerk’ and ‘streamline the work of the council’, Coun Roper said.

Coun Bob Foster-Smith proposed that the council should apologise for publishing the allegations in the minutes, but Coun Peter Slee said: “What are we apologising for? We did what we thought was right at the time.” However, after some debate, the motion was passed by five votes to zero with four abstentions.

Someone was lined up to take on the clerk’s role, but he decided he could not commit the necessary time. An email of interest had been received from another person and it was agreed to offer her the role on a temporary basis, if it was felt appropriate after a meeting with councillors.