Council Leader reveals he was at meeting with Tim Pilsbury when leaked email was handed over

By John Elworthy FENLAND Council Leader Geoff Harper revealed tonight that he was at the meeting with the council s chief executive when a confidential email written by Councillor Alan Melton was handed over. I was there, I never said I wasn t, Cllr

By John Elworthy

FENLAND Council Leader Geoff Harper revealed tonight that he was at the meeting with the council's chief executive when a confidential email written by Councillor Alan Melton was handed over.

"I was there, I never said I wasn't," Cllr Harper told me.

The email was handed over by the deputy leader Cllr Fred Yeulett at one of their regular meetings with chief executive Tim Pilsbury.

It's the first time Cllr Harper has spoken about the email which had been sent to him by his portfolio holder for finance, Cllr Melton, and labelled "strictly confidential". Cllr Melton had written to Cllr Harper, and circulated the email to a handful of colleagues but not Cllr Yeulett, calling for a radical approach to solving the issue of providing a leisure centre in Chatteris.

However the email has provoked Mr Pilsbury to call for a standards board inquiry into whether any of the comments brought either the council or council officers' into disrepute.

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The stage is now set for a major battle tomorrow night when all 39 Tory councillors meet at Fenland Hall for their monthly group meeting.

Cllr Harper said of the recent controversy that the "whole thing is getting ridiculous. It is a lot of bunk."

He said he was aware Cllr Yeulett was going to hand over the email to the chief executive.

"He did tell me he was going to do it- why would I stop him?" said Cllr Harper.

"What a colleague hands to the chief executive is not my business."

He said he saw no reason why anyone should be calling for his resignation and said 34 councillors had supported a vote of confidence in his leadership at last month's meeting, with only four voting against.

However a second Fenland councillor tonight contacted me and said their previous support for Cllr Harper would not be forthcoming tomorrow.

"I have always supported Geoff Harper and spoke out at the last meeting in his defence," the councillor told me. "I can't do that any more."

The councillor said that there was growing discontent over many issues, particularly in the relationships between town and parish councils and the district council.

The councillor added that they wanted much more openness about key staff changes at Fenland Hall, particularly when it affected the work with their constituents.

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