Rutland Anti-Corruption Group responds after council agrees to pursue legal action

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The group at the centre of a legal dispute has released a statement following a special council meeting.

Rutland County Council met on Thursday and councillors voted to seek an injunction to prevent three of its members harassing its chief executive and other employees.

The meeting had been called to discuss the results of an investigation the council commissioned into the actions of Coun Richard Gale, Coun David Richardson and Coun Nick Wainwright, who make up Rutland Anti-Corruption Group.

Councillors also voted to grant an indemnity to, and support the chief executive and other officers, to take legal action in their own name for alleged harassment by the group and resolved that all communications by the group to the council should be subject to a single point of contact through the council’s internal e-mail system.

The council also agreed to authorise sufficient funds for these purposes.

All councillors attended the meeting, with 23 members voting in favour of the recommendations.

Coun Gale, Coun Wainwright and Coun Richardson abstained from the vote.

Following the meeting, they released a statement which said: “The Rutland council meeting was nothing more than an act of desperation in an attempt to stop our group from asking perfectly reasonable and sensible questions in order to do our job and duty as county councillors on behalf of our electorate.

“At the meeting we stated that openness, transparency, accountability and empowering councillors was at the heart of the Conservative Coalition thinking.

“Despite all the presentations not one piece of evidence was produced to substantiate the allegations of harassment of officers or defamation of the council.

“We welcome any decision that will bring this to a speedy conclusion. It is regrettable that the council see fit to resolve this in court, at a substantial cost to the tax payer. However, in the event that this does go to court, under the rules of disclosure we will at least achieve the openness and transparency we sought from the outset, which is fundamental to accountability.”

Rutland County Council leader Roger Begy (Con) also issued a statement following the meeting.

He said: “We have a chief executive and staff team who are simply doing their jobs to the very best of their ability.

“Of course, they should be subject to scrutiny and challenge as that is the basis of local democracy. However, they should not have to put up with false allegations about their conduct and regular questioning of their integrity and honesty. As councillors we have to protect our staff, and this decision sends out a strong message.

“We totally support open and transparent debate and argument in meetings that are held in public so everyone is aware of issues and all are able to answer and account.”