Probe into row at the top of Northumberland County Council will take ‘some time’ to conclude

Investigations relating to the turmoil at the top of Northumberland County Council will take ‘some time’ to resolve, councillors have been told.

By Ben O'Connell
Thursday, 26th November 2020, 4:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th November 2020, 4:04 pm
Cllr Peter Jackson and Daljit Lally.
Cllr Peter Jackson and Daljit Lally.

At the Wednesday, November 25, meeting of the authority’s audit committee, the deputy chief executive, Kelly Angus, provided a brief update on what she described as ‘an unprecedented set of governance issues’ – in the wake of the row between the Conservative administration and the chief executive Daljit Lally.

Ms Angus also said that an extraordinary meeting of the committee is to take place shortly, not to discuss the ‘live issues’, but to offer assurance that the correct policies and procedures are being followed.

The matter blew up publicly when Mrs Lally emailed all county councillors with what she claimed were ‘serious whistle-blowing concerns’ as she was placed on ‘extended leave’ – but was understood to be suspended – in early August.

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The fallout saw three cabinet members, including the deputy leader, resign (although one has since been reinstated) before Cllr Peter Jackson was ousted as leader by a single vote in a motion of no confidence on Wednesday, September 2.

Following a staffing appeals committee behind closed doors on Monday, October 5, Mrs Lally resumed her role at the council.

Previous questions about investigations into the conduct of the chief executive or the allegations against the former council leader and other cabinet members only resulted in a spokesman saying that the authority ‘does not comment on individual staffing matters’.

But Ms Angus told the audit committee: “I’m really pleased to report that the council has made good progress in regard to the many matters it has been dealing with, and that the director of corporate assurance and a team of independent consultants have assisted with.

“I would ask members of the audit committee to note that the council is still managing this unprecedented set of extraordinary governance matters and therefore the issues the council is dealing with are predominantly live issues and are likely to remain so for some time until the matters come to a conclusion.

“Due to the confidentiality and sensitive nature of these matters, it would be inappropriate to expand on these matters further at this time.”

Referring to the extraordinary audit committee meeting, she added: “The details provided will not be about the live issues, but about the processes and assurance which can be provided to ensure that matters are being managed in line with the appropriate policies, procedures, governance and legal advice being provided to the authority at this time.”

Ms Angus also said it is anticipated a learning exercise will take place in the future, but the council ‘can only do this when all matters are concluded and we are some way from that at this time’.

As previously reported, Northumbria Police was contacted on two occasions in relation to the county council and its regeneration company, Advance Northumberland, but in October the force confirmed that no investigations are taking place following those referrals.

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