December 12, 2022 5.30 pm This story is over 15 months old

Councillor criticises conduct investigation behind closed doors

Two complaints have been made about Councillor Ashley Baxter

A South Kesteven councillor has labelled the decision to hold a meeting into complaints about him in private as “perverse”.

Two complaints were made about Councillor Ashley Baxter, the leader of the Alliance SK opposition group, following a meeting on March 3.

Press and the members of the public were asked to leave the public meeting to prevent the identities of the complainants being revealed.

It is understood that one was made by a councillor on behalf of the entire Conservative group, while another was made by a council officer.

Councillor Baxter (Market and West Deeping) argued that the complaints about him should be heard in public.

“It’s bizarre how people can remain anonymous when making accusations which damage my reputation, while I’m paraded about. The whole thing is perverse,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be meeting in secret to discuss what happened in public.”

The public were asked to leave the conduct meeting before the details of the allegations were discussed | Photo: LDRS/The Lincolnite

However, the panel noted that part of the complaints related to a private conversation shortly after the meeting.

Councillor Philip Knowles, chairing the hearing, said: “I see the logic of discussing part of the complaints in public, but I find it impossible to separate them, as one led to the other.”

An independent advisor said the situation, where the subject wishes to be heard in public but is denied, was “very rare”.

Councillor Baxter also raised questions about whether the panel could be impartial.

He said the Councillor Bob Broughton was biased as a Conservative, and had repeatedly ridiculed him in the past.

Councillor Broughton said: “We have had a topsy turvey relationship, but it hasn’t been all bad.”

He read a Christmas message sent by Councillor Baxter in an attempt to show there wasn’t animosity between the two.

A decision on the hearing is due to released within ten working days.

Councillor Ashley Baxter, South Kesteven member for Market and West Deeping ward, denied the claims

Councillor Baxter previously said that the claims were vindictive, and have caused him anxiety and loss of sleep.

“It is my view that the complaints and proposed sanctions are a deliberate attempt to undermine my credibility as an effective councillor,” he said in a statement prior to the meeting.

“I have been told by many people that I am a diligent councillor who asks many difficult yet very relevant questions at council committee meetings.

“The financial cost to the council of conducting this investigation is already over £9,000.”

South Kesteven District Council leader Kelham Cooke said: “It is incredibly disappointing that for the first time I have ever known we have to hold a hearing to do with an elected member breaking the code of conduct at South Kesteven District Council.

“Sadly, this is happening due to the seriousness of the complaints which have been received and have had to be externally investigated.”

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