Deputy leader and cabinet member quit Northumberland County Council in turbulent week for authority

The deputy leader of Northumberland County Council has resigned, along with another senior councillor, after a turbulent week at the authority.

By Ben O'Connell
Thursday, 13th August 2020, 4:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th August 2020, 4:28 pm
Cllr Wayne Daley and Cllr Veronica Jones, who have resigned from the cabinet.
Cllr Wayne Daley and Cllr Veronica Jones, who have resigned from the cabinet.

Cllr Wayne Daley, who represents the Cramlington North ward, has stood down from his position on the Conservative cabinet, where he was responsible for children’s services as well as being deputy leader.

Cllr Veronica Jones, the ward member for Ponteland West, who was the portfolio holder for adult wellbeing and health, has also resigned.

Both were absent from a meeting of the health and wellbeing board on August 13, of which they are members, as was the council leader, Peter Jackson.

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A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that the deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services, and the cabinet member for adult wellbeing and health have both resigned from their positions in the council’s cabinet.

“Further announcements on cabinet appointments will be made in the coming days.”

The email chain, which has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), shows that Mrs Lally referred to the council leader and ‘the issue of possible bias due to a possible conflicted personal relationship that he may have’, as well as ‘significant concerns about Advance and a failure to act in the best interests of the council’.

Mrs Lally declined to comment further, while Cllr Jackson has said he cannot comment at this stage, but the boat has now been further rocked by the resignation of Cllrs Daley and Jones, both of who have been approached for comment.

In an email to Conservative colleagues, which has also been seen by the LDRS, Cllr Daley said: ‘I have made it very clear since July 27 that I believe the decision to remove the CEO would be detrimental to the group and our chances of winning a second term.’

Council elections are set to take place in May 2021 and Cllr Daley explained that the leader needs ‘100% backing on this single contentious issue’ which he cannot give as he disagrees with it.

He added that this ‘is probably the saddest day of my political life’ and that he is ‘hugely proud of what this administration has done and achieved in three years’.

This morning (Thursday, August 13), he shared a link in relation to the new special-needs school to be built in Blyth on Twitter, describing it as a ‘great achievement & parting legacy for Northumberland’.

Meanwhile, a request to hold an extraordinary meeting of the audit committee in relation to these issues, by its chairman, Cllr Georgina Hill, has been turned down, which followed an earlier call for an extraordinary meeting of the full council, by a group of Labour and independent councillors.

A full council meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, September 2, although there are suggestions that it may not lead to many answers given the need for confidentiality that would apply to the likes of staffing matters or any ongoing investigations of wrongdoing.

The authority’s spokeswoman said: “The request for an emergency meeting has been considered in line with the council’s constitution including the rules of procedure. The next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, September 2, meets the requirements of this request.”

In relation to Mrs Lally, other than to previously confirm the period of extended leave, the council says it ‘cannot comment on employment matters’.

Mrs Lally said in her email to councillors that she had contacted police about some of her claims. Earlier this week, Northumbria Police confirmed it had received contact from an official at the council relating to Advance, but could not add anything further as it had not yet discussed this correspondence with the individual.

Advance Northumberland’s managing director, Ken Dunbar, said he was ‘surprised’ to see a reference to ‘significant concerns’ about the company.

He added: “As a well-run organisation, we believe there is no cause for ‘significant concerns’ within Advance Northumberland. However, we will, of course, thoroughly investigate if any significant allegations are brought to our attention.”

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