West Lindsey District Council opposition members have said “secrecy” around the departure of authority leader Councillor Giles McNeill is “damaging” the authority’s reputation.
Conservative Councillor McNeill mysteriously “stepped back” from his role a month ago with the chief executive at the time saying it was to “deal with some personal challenges”.
He also left his role as communications manager for Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh and was suspended from the Conservative party while investigations took place by officers and, it is now understood, the police too.
There have been suggestions Councillor McNeill has been subject to allegations of financial misconduct but these have yet to be confirmed.
In a statement on Tuesday, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Trevor Young said: “The current secrecy[…] is damaging the reputation of the council and leading to a lack of trust in politicians and that is good for no one.
“Despite stepping down as leader, the Conservative group are still shielding him and he remains part of the administration group on the council.
“Whatever he has done, it appears that he is no longer Edward Leigh’s right-hand man in West Lindsey, which indicates that it must be something serious.”
He said residents were “entitled to know what is going on” and added there was a “large question mark” over Councillor McNeil’s decisions, including purchases of commercial properties by the authority.
Deputy leader of Gainsborough Conservatives Sheila Bibb, who confirmed Councillor McNeill’s original suspension, said she had already commented on the situation.
“He’s still suspended and there’s an ongoing investigation by officers and one by police, and until those are completed we cannot really make any comments,” she said.
Deputy leader Councillor Owen Bierley has been covering the leader duties in the meantime.
Councillor McNeill said he was unable to comment under the suspension procedures when contacted.
Ian Knowles, Chief Executive of West Lindsey District Council, said the authority’s commercial acquisitions followed “a stringent set of guidelines, including a 14-point scoring criteria”.
The council has so far invested £22 million on six properties which bosses said contributed to more than £700,000 net benefit to the council tax payer
He added just one property was bought after Councillor McNeill became Leader in May 2019
“The decision making at West Lindsey follows a robust process and does not allow for one person to make such significant decisions,” he said.
“All the decisions on the investment portfolio were taken under delegation at the Council’s Corporate Policy and Resources Committee, where they were scrutinised by all its members. “
“Throughout our commercial investment period our external auditors have given us a clean audit and an unqualified value for money assessment.”