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Conservatives on South Kesteven District Council accused of trying to 'gag' councillors over the departure of chief executive Aidan Rave

Ruling Conservatives on South Kesteven District Council were accused of trying to ‘gag’ councillors over the sudden departure earlier this month of chief executive Aidan Rave.

A heated council meeting on Thursday saw council chairman Coun Jacky Smith switch off the microphone of Deepings Independent councillor Phil Dilks as he questioned how and why Mr Rave left the council after just two years.

Tempers flared as members agreed that Paul Thomas, SKDC’s strategic director for growth, would be interim chief executive.

Aidan Rave, with Matthew Lee and Kelham Cooke (13957872)
Aidan Rave, with Matthew Lee and Kelham Cooke (13957872)

Coun Smith (Con- Grantham St Wulfram’s) said questions concerning Mr Rave would not be allowed.

This led Coun Charmaine Morgan (Labour- Grantham St Vincent) to call it “completely mystifying and absolutely staggering” there would be no debate on this.

“It’s led to all sorts of questions from the public. It’s unacceptable.Did he go or was he pushed? The public deserve the answer.”

Aidan Rave (13957659)
Aidan Rave (13957659)

Coun Dilks then said: “It seems to me to be totally out of order to gag councillors from speaking. To lose one CEO is unfortunate but to lose two raises questions of the leader, not just from councillors but others.”

Coun Dilks then cited last week’s Mercury editorial as it also sought answers.

He continued: “So on top of golden handshakes handed out replacing the entire senior management team, it’s reasonable to ask just how much the latest departure will cost ratepayers.”

It was not just in cash terms, he added, but also the impact of Mr Rave in setting up separate companies, like InvestSK, and the impact on the “morale of staff who have been through the wringer of two years of change, upheaval and uncertainty, and not knowing if they will have a job to come to next week”.

Coun Smith told the meeting the council has issued a statement on Mr Rave and then read it out, adding: “We cannot go into intimate details of any departure.”

Coun Louise Clack (Lab-Grantham Earlesfield) wondered if the former chief executive had been given support in his job.

She continued: “It’s outrageous we are being prevented from having a discussion around that. If Aidan was to take us to a tribunal, he would be well within his right to do so.”

Council leader Matthew Lee (Con) moved to reassure members that due process was always followed by the council, adding that an employment committee would look into any HR issues.

He told the meeting he himself is a union representative and was “convinced we have followed the right procedure”.

He was also pleased councillors supported Mr Thomas in taking over, adding it could take nine months to find a successor to Mr Rave.

Later, Coun John Knowles (Ind- Bourne East) noted SKDC has spent more than £800,000 on replacing senior staff and asked how many non-disclosure agreements have been made and what was the cost to the public.

Coun Lee promised to respond in writing, adding the ‘reshaping’ of the senior management team has costs but would save SKDC £300,000 a year.

He added that it was hoped a permanent chief executive would be found within the next nine months.

It was also confirmed at the meeting that Mr Rave would be leaving his role as director in some of SKDC’s private companies.The council has previously said he is leaving to pursue "new ventures".

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