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Court to hear judicial review brought by town councillor over complaints handling

Judicial review proceedings are due soon to start in a case brought by a town councillor against her own authority over its handling of staff complaints.

Elizabeth Harvey, who sits on Ledbury Town Council and on Herefordshire Council - where she represents local party It’s Our County - was investigated by the former over a grievance raised by a staff member.

Cllr Harvey then reported herself to Herefordshire, which found there had not been any breach by her of the code of conduct.

In detailed grounds of resistance given to the High Court, Ledbury stated: “Cllr Harvey’s behaviour is perceived by various employees of the council, as well as other councillors, as being workplace bullying, generally aggressive, and objectionable. Her demands make it difficult for council employees to do their jobs properly.”

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Two staff resigned as a result of Cllr Harvey’s behaviour and “the mayor of the council fears other employees may resign if they are not protected”, it noted.

Ledbury said parish councils, as employers, had powers to deal internally with grievances made by employees and that these could be raised entirely separately from matters around the code of conduct.

Its grounds statement added: “The council respects its duty of care to its employees and its important right to deal internally, confidentially, and appropriately with what can be sensitive and private matters raised by employees; and which need to be addressed so that the council can carry out its functions.”

Cllr Harvey’s challenges are that Ledbury acted ultra vires as parishes can only impose penalties on councillors found in breach of the code of conduct, which she was not, and that its decisions were substantively and procedurally unfair. Judges accepted the points were arguable.

Ledbury in May 2016 decided that Cllr Harvey should not sit on any committees, sub-committees, panels or working groups or represent the council on any outside body, and that all communications between her and its clerk and deputy clerk should go through the mayor.

Mark Smulian

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