Fenland Council chief intervenes in email-gate and calls for return to mutual respect

FENLAND District Council chief executive Tim Pilsbury has described rumours that he authorised the leak which sparked the email-gate scandal as ""scurrilous"". He also called for a ""return to the mutual respect between officers and members, and between members themselves"".

THE chief executive of Fenland District Council made an unprecedented intervention in the email-gate scandal, describing rumours that he authorised the leak as "scurrilous".

Tim Pilsbury told Fenland councillors: "There is a rumour that I sent the email to the Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard. I did not do that. It is scurrilous to think that I did."

In an impassioned speech at last Thursday's council meeting, Mr Pilsbury said he wanted to clarify some facts about the issues raised in the confidential email sent by Councillor Alan Melton to a handful of colleagues.

The email, later handed to Mr Pilsbury by deputy leader Fred Yeulett (and also leaked to this newspaper), brought about a vote of no confidence which led to Cllr Yeulett being ousted.

Council Leader Geoff Harper, revealed by this newspaper to have been at the meeting when the email was handed to Mr Pilsbury, pre empted action by colleagues by resigning in advance of the Tory group meeting which debated the leak.

Mr Pilsbury offered his support to both men, describing them as having conducted themselves "with the highest integrity, enthusiasm and commitment to the people of Fenland.

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"Both men led the council to becoming one of the best in the UK. My gratitude goes to them. I thank them for their support. Both go with their heads held high".

Mr Pilsbury outlined the success enjoyed in his seven years as chief executive and promised the council still had "a range of projects to make people feel safe in the community, more recently planning a new future for the Fens".

He said the council always put its customers and the community first but despite, being shortlisted for Council of the Year, Fenland found itself embroiled in a "public airing of an internal political dispute".

Mr Pilsbury questioned the contents of the email (which have been referred by him to the Standards Board of England and could lead to action being started against Cllr Melton) and denied that either he or his deputy would interfere in terms of community benefit.

On occasions where they had intervened "it is to enhance the position of this council or community". Of the proposal for a leisure centre in Chatteris, which prompted Cllr Melton's email in the first place, he said at no stage had a proposal ever been put to officers.

Mr Pilsbury pleaded for a "return to the mutual respect between officers and members, and between members themselves. The same mutual respect that helped us move forwards for the good of the community that will then lift the morale of staff who work hard day in, day out for the community that members represent.

"The same staff who read about councillors in the paper and the same staff who enjoy good relationships with councillors.

"I really hope we can remove this matter from the public arena and bring our collective flairs to what matters - the Fenland taxpayers."

He added: "Let's go back to what we're good at- good debates about policy and delivering excellent service.