NORMAN CALLS ON STC TO SUSPEND TOWN CLERK
January 31 2014.
Local MP Norman Baker has written to Paul Franklin, the new leader of Seaford Town Council, to call on him and his Tory colleagues to suspend the town clerk, Sam Shippen, pending a full investigation into the numerous allegations that have been made about the running of the council.
These include documented and detailed statements from former town council employees, alleging bullying, and detailed complaints from organisations in the town and members of the public about the treatment they have endured while engaging with the town council.
The MP has already contacted the District Auditor to ask for a full and independent investigation into the running of the town council, and on Monday, the council itself agreed to a “review”, but to be handled by the failed leadership of the council itself, aided only by one Lib Dem.
His call for suspension has been mirrored by councillors of all three parties on the council, who have submitted a formal request for a meeting to discuss the issue.
Norman says: “Given the nature and number of detailed allegations made, there has to be a proper inquiry and for that to occur, it is the correct procedure to suspend the town clerk, on full pay and on a neutral basis. That is in the interests of everyone, including the town clerk herself.
“There are huge problems at Seaford Town Council, yet the Tory leadership seems to believe it can simply plough on and the problems will go away, but they won’t. I am afraid to say the town council Tories have shown themselves to be clueless, spineless or both, and in every respect hopelessly out of their depth. The only exceptions have been the former mayor Anthony White, who was hounded out of office and has since resigned from the Tory party, and Sam Adeniji, who has shown honesty and courage.”
Lib Dem councillor Stephen Gauntlett says: "Since becoming a Councillor in 2011, I have consistently received enquiries from residents of my ward concerning the absence of clarity in STC financial papers. In most cases, I have eventually been able to answer them but only after much digging around. This fuels public suspicion that there is something to hide, even if that was not the case. The absence of a costed business plan for the new club house at the Golf Course is another example. I asked in writing, for an estimate of the financial break-even, over a year ago but have never had a reply. Awkward questions therefore appear to be buried. As a Liberal Democrat, I place high store on openness and transparency and Seaford deserves nothing less"
UKIP councillor Alan Latham says: “While a range of allegations are to be the subject of this inquiry, it is important to stress the breadth of the problem in context of how it has affected the people of Seaford going about their daily business. To demonstrate that the Council’s leadership and administration is deficient in management skills here I summarise an ostensibly trivial situation which left a Seaford resident of European origin (Mrs X) in tears.
In order to continue receiving her stipend from her country of origin, Mrs X required the signature of a council official and an official stamp on a simple form. On day one Mrs X therefore visited Seaford Town Council to be told to make an appointment. On returning at the appointed time (second visit) at 11am, Mrs X was told the Town Clerk was ‘having her lunch’ and couldn’t be disturbed. Third visit: the Town Clerk is in London please come back tomorrow; On the fourth visit (i.e. tomorrow), at 10am, Mrs X was asked to return home and advised she would be telephoned at about 1pm. Having not received a call by 2pm, Mrs X telephoned saying she did not receive the promised call and was then told by the Town Clerk’s office that as it would take at least 10 days for an appointment she may prefer to ask her doctor (also an eligible signatory) to sign the form but this option requires a fee of £35. Since time was running out, I offered Mrs X my assistance by signing and stamping the form. Must have taken all of 10 minutes. Clearly there is a management problem and this is a total disgrace.”