Owen sacked as committee chairman at Fenland Council - leader John Clark says ‘I met with him and did not renew his chairmanship’

Sacked as governance committee chairman Kit Owen

Sacked as governance committee chairman Kit Owen - Credit: Archant

Five times mayor of March, Councillor Kit Owen, has been sacked as chairman of the committee responsible for overseeing the financial performance of Fenland District Council.

More than just a ticking off for Cllr Owen by council leader John Clark. He fired him as committee c

More than just a ticking off for Cllr Owen by council leader John Clark. He fired him as committee chairman - Credit: Archant

Cllr Owen said: “Cllr Clark said I had lost his confidence but didn’t say how or why. I asked him several times to explain but he wouldn’t.”

It is less than a fortnight after the annual meeting of the council at which committee chairmanships were announced for the coming year – including that of Cllr Owen as chairman of the corporate governance committee.

The committee comprises up to nine members of the council and has responsibility “for providing independent assurance of the adequacy of the risk management framework”.

The committee also has the job of providing “independent scrutiny of the council’s financial and non-financial performance to the extent that it affects the council’s exposure to risk and weakens the control environment, and for overseeing the financial reporting process and regulatory framework”.

Cllr Clark said: “I announced at full council on May 12 that the deputy leader and I would be holding one-to-one reviews with chairmen, vice chairmen and cabinet members and reserved the right to make changes. “I met with Cllr Owen on May 18 and did not renew his chairmanship of corporate governance.

“He was thanked for the service he had given and support shown by him in the past. I have not spoken to him since.”

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He added: “Whether or not Cllr Owen is appointed a member of the committee will be at the discretion of the new chairman.”

The council leader is currently facing an investigation by the authority’s own conduct committee after an investigation by this newspaper. We revealed how Cllr Clark had forwarded a complaint about an unauthorised car repairs business to the trader being complained about – without revealing he owned the site at the centre of the dispute.

During our investigation we discovered an email from Cllr Owen to Cllr Clark to say that “it has been brought to my attention you are the landlord of the building in question. Are you involved as a councillor or landlord?

“If the latter, your interest is pecuniary and therefore you should consider your position.”

Cllr Owen had explained that he wanted to know from Cllr Clark “how did this complaint become known to the complainee? Curiouser and curiouser as this is ostensibly a planning issue.

“Is there nothing confidential about complaints anymore? What is your response to the complainant or did you leave that in the hands of the complainee by advising him of the said complaint?”

The conduct committee meets next month to review the complaint.

Tom Lewis, acting monitoring officer, described it as a “pre-screening process”; what is described as an initial determination hearing – to be held in public- takes place on June 14.

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