• Probe launched over Ottery council confidentiality claims

    3rd January 2014 | News | Claire
  • The monitoring officer at East Devon District Council has called a meeting with Ottery Town Council to try and resolve a dispute about whether one of its councillors broke a confidentiality agreement.

    At the full council meeting of Ottery St Mary on Monday, December 2, the majority of councillors voted that independent councillor of 22 years, Roger Giles was guilty of divulging information deemed confidential by fellow members.

    The matter related to a planning meeting held on November 18, when councillors agreed that information about a developer’s interest in building on land at West Hill should be kept confidential – an item that was not listed on the agenda.

    Persimmon Homes has since confirmed its intention to submit a planning application for houses in the village.

    Following the planning meeting, Cllr Giles informed district and county councillor for the ward, Claire Wright about the town council’s plans to meet with the developer.

    However this information was deemed confidential by fellow town councillors.

    A number of complaints have been submitted to district council officials both about the way Cllr Giles was treated at the meeting, but also about his conduct.

    Because an investigation is under way into the matter, neither the town or district council is permitted to divulge the specific number of complaints.

    Cllr Giles, who said he felt “bullied” at the meeting, remains adamant that councillors should not be discussing plans for development in private and that he did not think he was in breach of confidence by passing the information on to the district ward member.

    The monitoring officer is due to meeting with town councillors to discuss the issue, including whether the information Cllr Giles divulged was in fact confidential, at a private meeting on January 6.

    A district council spokesperson, added: “The monitoring officer has offered to assist the town council to find its way through the complex network of rules, codes of conduct and general guidance so it can operate more effectively and manage its affairs with probity and dignity.

    “The preference is to find common ground and identify a diplomatic solution to their differences.

    “The monitoring officer considers the main problem to be a question mark over the interpretation of procedural rules, plus various assumptions that have led to disagreements.

    “For this reason, she will be holding a meeting with all those involved with a view to find common ground.

    “It is hoped that in future everyone can co-operate in a dignified way and avoid misunderstandings and mistrust that are not in the best interests of the town council or the community as a whole.”