Northumberland councillors demand answers over leaked report
Northumberland councillors want answers on a leaked report about a disciplinary process – now scrapped – relating to the authority’s chief executive.
This report suggests a disciplinary process in respect of Daljit Lally had been ‘unlawful’ and put the authority at risk of being sued, and it has now ended.
This made public a major rift with the Conservative leadership, which resulted in a vote of no confidence in the then leader, Cllr Peter Jackson. Mrs Lally returned to her post in October.
On Thursday, January 21, a private meeting of the employment appeals committee took place, but the report was leaked to the press, including the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
It states that the opinion of leading counsel was that ‘the disciplinary process adopted to date is unlawful and if allowed to continue, is likely to lead to unlawful outcomes’.
It further says that counsel opinion was that the process is ‘highly likely to have put the employee who was the subject of these processes at some detriment, in respect of which a legal claim for some compensatory damages may be made by that employee against the county council and/or individual officers or elected members involved in the process’.
The authority confirmed that following the meeting, the disciplinary action against Mrs Lally ‘would be ceased with immediate effect’. However, the LDRS understands that some individuals have concerns about parts of the report and that they do not see this as the end of the matter.
The press coverage following the leak sparked a call for an extraordinary meeting of the full council, which is taking place this afternoon (Wednesday, February 10) behind closed doors.
Cllr Susan Dungworth, leader of the Labour opposition, explained that she would not speak about the specifics of the report as it was inappropriate, but said: “I do feel very strongly that all elected members should see that report and only by seeing it will they understand the decision of that committee.
“You can read about it in the newspapers, but people who have responsibility for the governance of the council – the elected members – haven’t seen it.”
Cllr Dungworth said the ‘horse has bolted’ and the contents of the report should now be shared.
“This was caused by political behaviour so only politicians can sort this out,” she said.
“We have tried to be responsible rather than just play politics, even though that’s what we’ve been accused of.
“No members of the Labour group have commented on this on social media in the last two weeks, because I’ve asked them not to.”
The Labour group leader was one of the five councillors to call for the extraordinary meeting, alongside deputy leader Scott Dickinson and three independents – Cllrs Steven Bridgett, Georgina Hill and Derek Kennedy.
The agenda, which has to be published even for a meeting without press and public, states that the meeting will cover the following:
‘The media coverage following the employment appeals committee held last month.
‘To explain why elected members have not received any briefing about this until this meeting was called.
‘To answer questions from members arising from this matter.
‘To inform members of the principal risks facing the council because of recent events and set out the next steps, including mitigation of these risks and measures to prevent it happening again.’