Letters: Rutland County Council leaders’ views on the decision to cover the cost of potential defamation case

The purpose of our full council meetings is to debate recommendations and put forward alternatives before making a decision It was therefore disappointing at the last meeting when the UKIP councillors decided not to take part.

Our legal advice had clearly shown that they could speak in the debate but not necessarily vote.

It was quite right for Coun Walters to express a feeling held by most if not all councillors as well as the community that this is money that ideally should not be spent. He agreed there was a problem. Thus I look forward to learning his alternative way of resolving it. Because resolved it must be.

The January special council meeting saw a change in behaviour. We were able in most instances to focus on the key issues facing us. For the previous 12 to 18 months, senior officers had been distracted by the actions and accusations of the three councillors.

Since then we have become the first rural council to switch on superfast broadband; to jump start economic growth opportunities with Oakham Enterprise Park; to be finalising our £2m bid for Oakham Castle; to introduce our first Sunday bus service.

The issues facing us are far more fundamental. We have seen our core central government funding reduce significantly while at the same time freezing council tax.

We have seen massive changes in education and are facing the significant and diverse issues with a growing ageing population.

We need a first-class team of officers to deliver this agenda. This will not happen if we cannot recruit the best staff to achieve this.

We are already struggling to do so in some important posts. We need to work in a positive environment not one of concern. We have a very clear duty of care to them which, as was explained could be very expensive. The issue needs resolving. It can be with common sense and a willingness to return to reasonable behaviour. Unfortunately I am not holding my breath.

The council found itself in a similar position with Coun Richardson in 2001 and did not resolve it. That cannot happen again

Roger Begy

leader, Rutland 
County Council (Con)

Being elected to serve the public as a councillor was always going to mean taking responsibility and having to make difficult decisions and if ever that was going to be true it was dealing with public expenditure.

Last week’s decision by the council to not accept that any outlandish and potential defamatory statements likely to be felt by employees as harassment was one of the most difficult of decisions, but at the same time most logical one to make.

While Coun Walters and I are at opposite ends of the political spectrum I am sure when we both stood for election we knew that this was not going to make us many friends, and may lose us a few as we try to make decisions where often the community we serve is split on a matter.

The current situation is where three councillors, who after wearing many different hats are now UKIP members, have made totally unsupported damaging allegations on websites, some of which have now been removed from their own website, but remain elsewhere as a result of their actions.

Despite two years of attempts to use “political” methods and common sense to resolve the unacceptable methods they use it is now felt that enough is enough and if necessary legal action appears the last resort.

The council is now between a rock and a hard place. Do nothing and who will want to work for an organisation that does not support its staff and risks those it employs leaving and taking action against it?

Or take action to support the professional legal advice you have been given? History will show the money being expended is entirely as a result of their actions.

While sharing financial concerns, unlike Coun 
Walters I do not have the luxury of being able to cast a populist vote and claim “nothing to do with me, 
Guv”.

I and other councillors have decided this situation can not be allowed to 
continue.

We need our staff focused on continuing to drive down costs, our successful shared service agenda and improvements to the economy and not having to waste time deal with these ludicrous claims.

Terry King

Deputy leader, Rutland 
County Council (Con)