Melbourn Parish Council votes against publishing grievance report over conduct

Melbourn parish councillors voted against publishing the grievance report at a council meeting in Me

Melbourn parish councillors voted against publishing the grievance report at a council meeting in Melbourn on Monday night. - Credit: Archant

Councillors attending the first full Melbourn Parish Council meeting since July have all voted against publishing the full grievance panel report at the centre of an ongoing scandal which has seen a number of resignations related to the authority’s conduct.

The 10 members of the council meeting on Monday opted instead to publish the recommendations within the report, citing concerns over potential legal action as the reason for not revealing its contents.

However, out of the 17 recommendations, two full recommendations and sections of two others have been withheld in the document – which has been seen by the Crow.

Issues of the summer were the hot topic of the night, with ‘transparency’ being the buzzword of choice, prompting outcry from some members of the public frustrated that the report remains unpublished.

Speaking from the public gallery, Brenda Meliniotis said: “The turnout for the September 22 by-election was 28.13 per cent – people were put off from voting because they felt there was a hidden agenda.”

She cited the leaflet that was put through villagers’ doors featuring nine of the 12 candidates – with eight of them elected.

The response from Councillor Nikki Cross was that they shared an ethos, so it was thought it would be more efficient to put those that share the same ethos on one leaflet.

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The new chairman, Councillor Julie Norman, said the council needs to weigh up the need for transparency against the prospect of litigation.

She said that because the time period for the FOI request had passed, and communication had ceased between the parish clerk and the solicitor for the other party, people who made requests would have to complain to the parish council as the next step.

Councillor Sally Ann Hart said she felt uncomfortable about refusing to publish a report when the way forward was about transparency.

Councillor Sashi Siva, who was elected as vice chairman, said: “People are needing answers so I don’t mind getting a rap on the knuckles.”

And Councillor Jose Hales said: “I suppose it would be nice to have those recommendations made public, I have always felt uncomfortable that it wasn’t made public because they don’t know how badly the parish council was performing.”

In the recommendations it says that because of previous tensions with factional groups, they should consider reviewing the working of the council to ensure decisions are taken openly and democratically, that ‘staff should be encouraged to report harassment immediately –

irrespective of the person involved’ – and that council ‘employees should be given training to identify unacceptable behaviour and to give them confidence to report any matters of concern’.

Other recommendations include councillors not being able to ask the clerk to undertake any duties on their behalf, that council agendas are the responsibility of the clerk, and no one in the council can veto items.

Melbourn resident Rowena Tucker said: “I wish to thank the people who put themselves forward for election and were elected to the parish council to give their time to Melbourn.”

The Crow can confirm the recommendations are to be published in the minutes which are to be pinned on the notice boards outside Melbourn Hub from Wednesday next week.