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Report calls for better behaviour at Ottery council

11:30 03 April 2014

Feuding town councillors have been told to attend team building training to rebuild ‘respectful relationships’ following a long-running dispute over an alleged breach of confidentiality.

District bosses issued the advice after an official investigation into a row which started in December when Councillor Roger Giles was publicly accused of ignoring council rules.

A summary of the investigation was made public this week and reveals that 24 complaints were made against town council practices and the actions of various councillors.

And although much of the report remains classified, a limited conclusion outlining the suggested steps to be taken has been published.

In her findings, East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) monitoring officer Denise Lyon said that she had decided not to refer the complaints for formal investigation.

She instead suggested that the council consider training for its staff and assertiveness training for all councillors in order to set ground rules for behaviour during meetings.

In the report, Mrs Lyon concludes that ‘misjudgements’ had been made by both officers and councillors, and that it would be appropriate for the council to ‘reflect on events and their behaviour’ to ‘consider what they might learn for the future’.

Following a request by the Herald for an elaboration on the limited conclusions, an EDDC spokesman said: “The monitoring officer has made it clear that the only way there can be a positive outcome from this affair is if there is a move to respectful relationships and a focus on well-managed debate.

“In the interests of this objective, she does not consider it would be helpful to make any further comment that might only serve to further exacerbate the situation.”

Speaking on Wednesday, Cllr Giles said he was ‘really disappointed’ that Mrs Lyon’s full report had not been released, despite asking that it be published.

“What I find particularly disappointing is that I was accused in public, and then exonerated in private,” he added. “I don’t think what she [the monitoring officer] has done is sufficient and I don’t think the remedy is sufficient.”

Ten of the complaints that were lodged related to the way the council had operated and 14 were about the actions of various councillors.

Reacting to the report, Ottery Mayor Glyn Dobson said he felt the conclusions showed that nobody involved was blameless.

“Everyone has been told that they should attend training,” he added. “There were mistakes made on all sides.”

“And from my own point of view, I firmly believe it should have been given to an outside investigator and not dealt with by EDDC.”

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