Investigation finds former Cambridgeshire County Council deputy leader breached Code of Conduct
An independent investigation has concluded Cambridgeshire County Council's former deputy leader Roger Hickford breached the Council’s Code of Conduct in six different areas - including bullying, improper use of his position and bringing the council into disrepute.
The report by Wilkin Chapman Investigating solicitors was considered by the council’s constitution and ethics committee on Friday (25) who voted to put it all into the public domain.
The investigation made an initial finding that Roger Hickford was acting in his official capacity when dealing with officers in respect of the tenancy at Manor Farm, Girton.
The full list of breaches are
Respect– he failed to treat Officers and others acting on behalf of the council with respect;
Bullying – he used a bullying manner in order for the council to pay for works that would otherwise be the responsibility of the tenant. He also used a bullying manner in order to set the terms of the lease for Manor Farm;
Impartiality – he compromised officers and others’ impartiality in his dealings with regard to Manor Farm;
Disrepute – his conduct towards officers and others and his conflict of interest would have reduced the public’s confidence in him being able to fulfil his role or the council being able to discharge its functions;
Improper use of position – he used his position as deputy leader to receive concessions that the council would not otherwise have agreed to;
Interests - he failed to register a disclosable pecuniary interest (the tenancy of Manor Farm) within 28 days and he failed to declare a non-statutory disclosable interest in meetings with regard to County Farms matters.
However, the investigation found he did not breach paragraph 5.1(a) of the code, in respect of Misuse of Council Resources.
Commenting on the findings, Councillor Lucy Nethsingha, said: “As leader of Cambridgeshire County Council since May I am determined that we will root out disrespectful or bullying behaviour, whoever is responsible, and with that in mind will be asking our new chief executive to undertake a wider review of member - officer behaviour, and our support for council officers at all levels across the council.”
Having accepted the report in full the committee also unanimously agreed a recommendation proposed by Councillor Lorna Dupre and seconded by Councillor David Ambrose Smith that it should be a cross council priority to address the issues raised in the report, that it be referred to strategy and resources committee with a request they establish programme of action to resolve and prevent an occurrence, and to full council if appropriate.
The recommendation also included taking up the issue with colleagues in councils across Cambridgeshire to improve standards of behaviour in public life more widely.
The investigation into code of conduct issues was an outcome of last year’s audit into the process leading up to the award of the tenancy of Manor Farm, Girton, the subsequent decisions made regarding the tenancy and the processes and practices of the County’s Farms Estate.
The audit concluded correct procedures were followed in relation to the tenancy award process and approval process for potential additional extension works. But 11 further serious concerns were raised in relation to financial, transparency and conduct issues which the audit and accounts committee agreed should be referred on for further consideration under other processes, which included the Members Code of Conduct procedures.
Recommendations relating to the Farm’s Process Audit are complete.