Eric Whitfield

Statement on Andrea Hill’s future expected today. Updated

Update Friday afternoon: Andrea Hill to remain on leave until at least June while further investigations are carried out. Statement said that some matters had been resolved but others further inquiries. Following an FoI request the committee has also asked the investigation to look at some of Ms Hill’s expenses claims (BBC).

A statement about the future of Andrea Hill is expected later today after a meeting of the county council’s Dismissals Appeals Committee. Ms Hill, the council chief executive, has been on extended leave for a month while and inquiry into allegations about staff relations in the legal department.

A preliminary report from solicitors Wragge and Co who have been conducting an external investigation will be presented to the committee and council leader Mark Bee, who was chosen after the resignation of Jeremy Pembroke.

The subject of the inquiry has been a whistleblowing allegation made after two senior executives resigned and the death by suspected suicide of David White. Mr White had been given additional responsibility as interim monitoring officer (one of the key local government posts) after the sudden resignation of Eric Whitfield, the monitoring officer, and another official, Graham Dixon, the director of resource management at the end of March.

Police have been investigating Mr White’s death before the resumption of an inquest into his death.

According to the county council website the Dismissals Appeals Committee “meets as required to deal with appeals by Council employees under the Council’s disciplinary and grievance procedures”. The press and public will be excluded from today’s meeting as is normal when discussing such matters. However, there has been no suggestion that the meeting will involve an appeal: BBC Radio Suffolk is reporting that a report from the meeting will go to Mark Bee who has announced the end of the New Strategic Direction policy of which Ms Hill was the architect.

The committee has five members, four Conservative and one Liberal Democrat.

The relvant agenda item for the meeting is:

To Consider a Report by the Strategic HR Manager (Reward and Performance)

(The report relating to this Agenda item has been withheld from public circulation and deposit pursuant to Section 100(A) of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that the meeting is likely not to be open to the public when this item is considered).

Suffolk CC leader and two officials resign

The resignation of two senior officials of Suffolk County Council followed yesterday by Jeremy Pembroke, the Conservative leader, were linked today by Sandy Martin, the Labour leader.

He suggested, in a BBC Radio Suffolk interview, officials were making decisions that were too political (he mentioned the “chief executive” but not by her name, Andrea Hill) and that the two officials were the only two people to stand up against this.

Cllr Martin said Cllr Pembroke was a “decent chap” but “out of touch with reality” and did not have the control that was required.

The two officials are Graham Dixon who until Wednesday was director of resource management, and Eric Whitfield, the monitoring officer (EADT).

Cllr Pembroke told BBC Radio suffolk that he was “not pushed” and had made his decision at the beginning of December. He said: “I genuinely believe it [the New Strategic Direction] is the right thing to do.”

He told the East Anglian Daily Times:

I have enjoyed being Leader immensely. I believe we have made great strides in modernising the authority, making efficiencies and creating an organisation that, even in these difficult financial times, will deliver.

I feel this is the right time for me to step down to give the next Leader enough time to prepare for the elections in 2013. I know that I will be leaving the authority in good hands.

The deputy leader, Jane Storey, will take over as interim leader until an election is held later this month. The favourite, according to the EADT, is Colin Noble. He was recently described to me as the most capable and ambitious politician on the council.

Kathy Pollard, a Liberal Democrat and leader of the opposition, described the situation as “quite extraordinary”. She had been at a meeting earlier in the week at which Graham was expected, but was told, “He is not in today”.

She said it was clear that Jeremy Pembroke was under a great deal of pressure.

While all this was going the April issue of the Inside SCC internal newsletter was being finalised. Production was completed at 2.45 yesterday afternoon. In a 1,850 word message chief executive Andrea Hill writes:

Let’s be clear, Suffolk County Council is now at the leading edge of new thinking in the public sector. We have an inspiring and bold Cabinet who have placed us there. It’s not an easy or comfortable place to be because we are challenging the old ways of doing things; we are developing a new model that will unsettle the status quo and, as we all know, any change makes ordinary people uncertain. Changing the system also challenges vested interests and will therefore be attacked.

That’s partially why I’m getting so much focus and now why Jeremy Pembroke, the most honest, visionary, trustworthy politician I have ever worked with, is, in my view, being unfairly attacked by a local newspaper. But we also have advocates and supporters both in central government, and local government, who are looking to Suffolk as a future role model. You won’t see them in the media – and you might well ask why – but be sure they exist.

The full text is is at wikisuffolk.

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