Council leader Steve Count cleared of conduct allegations arising from motion to give up part of their allowances in solidarity with pay cut for staff

PUBLISHED: 15:14 08 April 2019

Cllr Sebastian Kindersley (left) alleged Cllr Steve Count, the leader of Cambs County Council, had breached the council code of conduct. But an investigation has ruled otherwise and cleared Cllr Count of all alegations. Picture; ARCHANT

Cllr Sebastian Kindersley (left) alleged Cllr Steve Count, the leader of Cambs County Council, had breached the council code of conduct. But an investigation has ruled otherwise and cleared Cllr Count of all alegations. Picture; ARCHANT

Archant

County council leader Steve Count has been cleared of breaching the code of conduct over the way he persuaded fellow councillors to take a cut in allowances before Christmas.

Former council chairman Cllr Sebastian Kindersley (Lib Dem) claimed that a motion passed by full council on December 13 and an associated press release was out of order.

He said the motion put forward by Cllr Count “was designed to coerce members into relinquishing their entitlement without having any regard for the impact that may have on them financially”.

He also claimed it was made “with the intention of undermining those who opposed the proposal for political gain”.

Now the council has issued a ruling after referring it to their independent conduct person on conduct matters that “there was no apparent breach of the code of conduct and therefore no further action should be taken.”

Deputy monitoring officer Amy Brown and the independent member Gillian Holmes have published their ruling.

Cllr Kindersley had argued that the motion by Cllr Count failed to treat others with respect and accused him of bullying.

The Lib Dem councillor claimed that by forcing councillors into a public position on their allowances failed to treat them with respect and that overall the leader’s approach amounted to “coercive/bullying behaviour intended to demean councillors who are unable to give up the requested amount”.

Cllr Count told investigating officers that he did not consider his actions to be bullying nor was that his intention.

He also pointed out that the motion put to council had been approved by the monitoring officer and democratic services officer before publication.

The ruling refers to this aspect and notes that the motion fell within the remit of the council to debate and although officers were not responsible for what might be said outside the context of the debate or through amendments.

In the concluding report it noted that the option provided an option for members to notify democratic services had they wished their vote to be treated differently than had been proposed.

“In respect of the allegation that Cllr Count is guilty of bullying ……there is no evidence of Cllr Kindersley having been specifically targeted and/or coerced into voting in a particular way/outside the normal whipping system” said the report.

“Consequently it was not considered that these circumstances would meet the threshold for bullying having regard to the legal definition.”

On December 11 the county council voted not only to back the mandatory leave, but to agree to the equivalent pay cut themselves, meaning councillors will lose out on 1.2 per cent of their allowances, spread over a 12 month period.

A spokesman for the council said the plan will save £900,000 but that imposed unpaid leave affects only those earning more than £26,470 a year.

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