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Bid to clear Law’s name fails

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A district auditor has rejected attempts by the chief executives’ trade union to remove criticism of Doncaster MBC’s former managing director Susan Law from his report.

A public interest report by district auditor John Prentice, published last week, found there had been “a breakdown in relationships” between Ms Law and elected mayor Martin Winter (Lab) before her departure in February 2007.

Mr Prentice said the “actions of a few members and officers, including the former managing director” had fallen short of governance standards.

He condemned Margaret Pinkney (Ind) for phoning Ms Law while she was on a council committee investigating the mayor’s complaints about the managing director.

But Association of Local Authority Chief Executives secretary Alastair Robertson said nothing in the report justified its criticism of Ms Law.

He said: “We wanted that out. We asked for a clear statement of what she was supposed to have done wrong, and at most it was that she answered [Cllr Pinkney’s] call. Was she supposed to hang up?”

An Audit Commission spokesman said Mr Prentice had “not put everything in his report, but felt there were areas where Susan Law fell short of the standards hoped for.”

The auditor also criticised Doncaster for sending Ms Law on four months’ leave without suspending her, which he said may have been unlawful.

The row between Mr Winter and Ms Law ignited after she asked police to examine his role in a regeneration project. They found no case to answer.

The breakdown in the pair’s relationship was “partly caused by existing tensions between the mayor and a key group of Labour councillors”, which “continue to hamper the effectiveness of the council”, the auditor found.

Mr Winter claimed the auditor’s report “makes clear that senior Labour party politicians colluded with [council] officers” in a bid to remove him.

But a senior Doncaster Labour figure said: “Will he name names? Winter should put up or shut up.”

There was confusion over Mr Winter’s position last week after he set up his own political group on the council but subsequently denied he was leaving the Labour Party.

Ms Law, now Wokingham BC chief, declined to comment.

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