‘Vindicated’ district councillor says he felt “bullied” by UDC

UTTLESFORD district councillor Alan Dean has said he felt “bullied” by the authority in the wake of a tribunal’s decision to overturn a ruling that he brought the council into disrepute.

The Stansted representative said in a blog last August that it could take council officers up to two months to recalculate benefit payments and that this had been causing major financial stress to some people.

UDC’s standards sub-committee ruled in November that his comments had breached the council’s code of conduct. It stated: “The decision is that the code of conduct has been breached in that the impression has been given that council officers take up to two months to recalculate payments and that this has been causing major financial stress to some people. While the sub-committee found that there may be deficiencies in the system, it found no evidence that the cause of these was as alleged by Cllr Dean.”

The tribunal ruled there had been no breach of the code.

Cllr Dean said he had been “vindicated” by the tribunal and took aim at the council, saying it pointed to an authority that did not like vigorous scrutiny and that it had a culture which was not open and transparent.

“It looks like the council wants to stop me carrying out my democratic responsibilities to support my more vulnerable constituents when I come up with uncomfortable information,” he added.

“I am not alone in thinking that the council’s standards committee is being misused to silence a councillor who says things the bosses don’t like, rather than to guard against real wrongdoing.”

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A council spokesman said: “The decision of the tribunal on appeal was that the words used by Cllr Dean did not bear the [sub-committee’s] interpretation. The tribunal took a view that he ‘...was requesting information rather than making any critical statement’.

“The full decision has not yet been issued and was expected within 14 days of the hearing.”