Extraordinary Statement During Council Meeting Highlights Rift With Officers

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough

Officers are now deciding what happens at the Council and not elected members, according to one Committee Chairman.

In an extraordinary statement read out at the start of the Standards Committee meeting yesterday, Cllr Gordon Bilsborough highlighted a widening rift between some councillors and Chief Executive Theo Leijser’s management team.

Gordon claimed that he had been put under “strong pressure” by officers not to allow a discussion on the future of the Standards Committee to take place at the meeting.

Currently a board of elected members is looking into streamlining the number of committees and Standards, which scrutinises councillor behaviour, is facing a merger with Policy and Resources.

From Radio Scilly

Hear Cllr Gordon Bilsborough’s full statement, read out at the Standards meeting…

Gordon says Senior Legal Officer Richard Burraston emailed him to advise against discussing the winding-up of the Standards Committee. Richard informed Gordon that Council rules prohibited it.

But Gordon says he’s checked the Council’s rulebook and can’t find where it stops such a debate from taking place.

Gordon said he will get his own legal advice to determine whether Burraston’s email held any weight.

Cllr Bilsborough went on to allege that officers and not elected members are now calling the shots.

He said the advice felt “like a veiled threat” and he likened it to “something more sinister” from George Orwell’s 1984.

It was “an attempt by officers to ensure their own views prevail, to cut costs and their workload,” said Gordon.

He says he is deeply worried that democracy is being “sacrificed” for efficiency and that by reducing the size of committees, power will be concentrated into fewer hands.

Gordon said it is clear that Council officers don’t like their views challenged and he told the meeting that other councillors had warned him, “watch your back.”

In another highly irregular move, outgoing current Senior Finance Manager Laura Roberts, said she was “most disappointed” at being asked to prepare a report for the meeting.

Cllr Bilsborough, as Committee Chairman, had requested the details.

She said preparing a report wasn’t relevant or a good use of taxpayers money when the committee only spent £1,500 a year.

It’s normal practice for officers to provide information when requested by a chairman.

And speaking afterwards, Gordon said he simply wanted to see the financial details because, as Chairman, he had a legal responsibility for the budget.

Roberts, who handed her notice in last week, after seven months in the role, told the meeting that the request wasn’t a good use of officer’s time.

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