Fenland Council begins inquiry into whether leader John Clark broke the councillors’ code of conduct over the way he handled complaint

Fenland Council leader John Clark

Fenland Council leader John Clark - Credit: Archant

Chief executive Paul Medd confirmed that Fenland District Council has begun an investigation into a possible breach of the councillors’ code of conduct by the leader John Clark.

“I have referred the matter to the council’s monitoring officer Tom Lewis who will now progress it in a prompt and appropriate manner,” he said.

The complainant told Mr Medd that there were three areas of concern about the way Cllr Clark handled an issue over unauthorised use of a piece of land on the corner of Alpha Street and Station Road, March.

He was concerned that information about a confidential complaint had been shared with the person being complained about and also not disclosing early on that he in fact owned the site in question.

“There is a potential breach of data protection law too,” said the Chatteris man. “It is my personal opinion that any member of the pubic should feel that they can approach any councillor, especially the leader, knowing their issue is to be dealt with in total confidence.

“His actions totally undermine the very principles of local government and bring the authority into disrepute. “

Mr Lewis explained that “as you may be aware with all complaints we try and resolve them informally in the first instance.

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“Therefore we will forward your complaint as you have set it out to Cllr Clark and ask for a response within seven days as per our procedure”

Mr Lewis asked the Chatteris man if he would “accept an apology or another way of informally resolving your complaint? We can then put this to Cllr Clark.”

But the man has insisted this is insufficient – mainly because he has never met Cllr Clark and has no involvement in the original case. “I’m slightly disappointed to think that an apology is in any way an acceptable resolution to a potential breach of the code of conduct and data protection laws,” he told Mr Lewis.

“I have no personal grudge with Cllr Clark, I don’t personally know him, I don’t believe that I’ve ever met him nor had any type of contact with him. I have no party political affiliation personally so this complaint is not in any way linked to any type of party politics.”

He added: “Therefore, as this is not of a personal nature, I do not feel that an apology is appropriate for my complaint. My complaint is effectively on behalf of the citizens of Fenland who deserve better from their elected officials.

“I’m slightly disappointed that incidents like this are not investigated as a matter of course by the relevant department when there appears to be strong evidence from the article in the Cambs Times to suggest that the code of conduct has been broken.”

We reported last week that Cllr Clark had visited the people who originally complained to him about the unauthorised use of the land to apologise for the way he had dealt with them.

Councillor Virginia Bucknor said: “This gives me great concern because confidentiality is paramount when dealing with residents concerns. John Clark has behaved unprofessionally and as a landlord why wasn’t he aware of the way his tenant was behaving?”