Hickford QUITS ahead of damning report
- Credit: Terry Harris
Disgraced councillor Roger Hickford resigned as deputy leader of Cambridgeshire County Council – and resigned his council seat with immediate effect.
His resignation followed a two-year audit committee inquiry into his acquisition of a county council owned nine-acre farm and house at Girton near Cambridge.
The report, yet to be published, will turn the spotlight on his bullying behaviour at Shire Hall, and the awarding of the farm tenancy to him.
Council leader Steve Count had earlier distanced himself from the deputy he had stood by despite revelations by this newspaper that have long cast doubt on the propriety of the council’s decision to grant him the tenancy.
Cllr Count issued a statement in which he stated that the first time he became aware of the audit committee’s findings was on February 23.
Cllr Count said: “It was agreed at the meeting of the audit and accounts Committee on November 24 2020, that the Manor Farm audit - once finalised - was to be shared with me as leader of the council, and both the chairman and vice chairman of audit and accounts committee on a strictly confidential basis.
“However due to the ill health of the chief internal auditor, the report couldn’t be finalised to the original timetable.
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“Mazars were appointed to complete the work, and presented it to Cambridgeshire County Council chief executive Gillian Beasley on the evening of February.22, In accordance with the committee decision, she shared it with me on the following day.
“This meant that the first time I was aware of any of the report’s content was on Tuesday, February23..
“It is a long and complex report which the committee will consider on Friday March 5.
Cllr Hickford jumping ship will avoid a conduct committee hearing that some councillors were considering rushing through.
However, the questions remain – and the audit committee report will also focus on the implications that may arise for council officers involved in awarding of the tenancy to the now former councillor.