County Council's chief executive returns to post

Northumberland County Council’s chief executive is returning to her post after a period of ‘extended leave’.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 11:00 am
Northumberland County Council chief executive Daljit Lally.
Northumberland County Council chief executive Daljit Lally.

A spokesman for the authority simply confirmed that Daljit Lally will be resuming her role in the council.

She was widely believed to have been suspended and the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that the suspension could not last any longer than two months under the terms of the constitution.

However, the council spokesman would not confirm a date for her return to work, with some suggesting it would be as early as (Wednesday, October 7.

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The LDRS has also been told that initial investigations by an independent consultant have found no evidence of wrongdoing in relation to allegations against Mrs Lally.

She was placed on ‘extended leave’ in early August, just after she emailed all county councillors with what she claimed were ‘serious whistle-blowing concerns’.

This row with the Conservative administration has resulted in a range of allegations and counter-allegations in leaked emails since, although nothing has been made concrete publicly, with Mrs Lally and the political leadership declining to comment.

Three cabinet members – Councillors Wayne Daley, Veronica Jones and Cath Homer – resigned, before Coun Peter Jackson was ousted as leader by a single vote in a motion of no confidence on September 2.

This was made possible by three Tory rebels – former deputy leader Coun Daley plus Councillors Christine Dunbar and Mark Swinburn, who all represent Cramlington wards.

Coun Glen Sanderson was elected as the new council leader on Wednesday, September 23, with Coun Richard Dodd, the former business chairman, as deputy leader.

Ahead of the meeting to elect the new leader, the Labour opposition called for the immediate return of the chief executive among its expectations of Coun Sanderson’s tenure amid a cautious welcome, later warning him that he was ‘on probation’.

Reacting to Mrs Lally’s return, Coun Susan Dungworth, the leader of the Labour group, said: “We’ve been on the right side of this from the start. The chief executive should never have been suspended.

“We look forward to the council getting back to business and working hard in difficult circumstances to protect communities across Northumberland. The Labour group welcomes her back to post.”

She added: “We were never extended the courtesy of knowing the reasons for her suspension and this led us to think this was more about personalities than actual events.

“We sincerely hope that this inexcusable situation never happens again. When officers and staff in the council raise concerns, they should be listened to and the issues thoroughly investigated.

“The reason why the vast majority of people raise concerns is that they believe the interests of local people are not being served properly. Whistle-blowing is a vital aspect of the checks and balances all good organisations have to hold their leaders to account.”

Mrs Lally has been approached for comment.