Northumberland County Council's £20K bill for investigating bullying Mayor

Northumberland County Council paid Ian Spafford Associates Limited £20,461.78 in connection with the investigation of Coun Bob Parker

Former Mayor of Blyth, Councillor Robert Parker
Former Mayor of Blyth, Councillor Robert Parker

A North East council spent more than £20,000 on an investigation into a bullying row involving a town mayor.

Northumberland County Council paid Ian Spafford Associates Limited £20,461.78 in connection with the investigation into the conduct of Coun Bob Parker, the former mayor of Blyth in Northumberland.

Coun Parker was asked to stand down as head of the town council after a two-year investigation into claims he bullied the organisation’s clerk.

The cost of the investigation came to light following a Freedom of Information request.

But the council defended the amount spent on the investigation.

A spokesperson from Northumberland County Council said: “Where it is considered appropriate to do so we have a statutory duty to investigate allegations of misconduct.

“This was a very long and complicated investigation which ran over several months and included a two day hearing. The council, through its standards committee, is committed to high standards of conduct within the elected membership of all local authorities in Northumberland.”

Labour representative Coun Parker was found to have told Blyth Town Council clerk Sue Noddings to “obey his orders”, sent her an intimidating email and was confrontational and argumentative.

In December Northumberland County Council’s standards committee found that Coun Parker “bullied Ms Noddings” contrary to paragraph 3(2)(b) of the Blyth Town Council Members’ Code of Conduct.

Following the investigation by Northumberland County Council’s standards committee, the town council’s own members chose to ban him from his post as mayor, as well as chairing all committee and sub-committee meetings for the next three years.

The county council’s standards team had suggested a 12-month ban and that Coun Parker undergoes training, but members of the town council, including some in his own party, voted for tougher sanctions.

The move meant he stands to be stripped of his mayoralty until the end of this term of election in 2016 although he will continue to represent his ward of Cowpen. His wife Margaret is also a town councillor for the same ward.

Coun Parker is now seeking a judicial review of the council’s decision, branding the organisation “dysfunctional.”

In May, Coun Parker told the Journal: “I can confirm that I have commenced litigation against Blyth Town Council and I hope this will act as a catalyst to focus minds on its ‘dysfunctional’ workings. I didn’t take this decision lightly and I will make a fuller statement at the conclusion of the litigation.”

Councillor Olga Potts was elected mayor of Blyth’s Town Council at a meeting at the end of May.

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