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DCLG ‘monitoring’ Cheshire East over four police investigations

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The Department for Communities & Local Government has said it will only intervene at Cheshire East Council if there is enough evidence of “widespread, systemic and extremely serious failure”, following allegations that the council’s cabinet is not fit to govern.

Ten independent councillors warned that unless the cabinet resigns by the end of the year, they will ask the DCLG to put the council into special measures.

A lengthy list of concerns outlined in a statement issued by the independent group on 26 September referred to four police investigations into council affairs.

The independent group said claims by the council that the current problems were historic were “disingenuous”, as a number of cabinet members have been present since 2009.

The statement said: “They are increasingly part of the problem, rather than the solution.”

It added: “These problems need addressing as a matter of urgency. Either a new cabinet, without the tainted members of the past, or the instigation of a committee-style council leadership, are the options open to the current leadership.”

Council leader Rachel Bailey robustly defended her leadership, and accused the independent group of “political point scoring”.

She added: “I’m confident however that the government won’t feel the need to take any such steps, because they can see that the current elected member and professional officer leadership we have in place here is putting our house in order, whilst continuing to do a good job delivering services and stimulating the local economy.

“The latest three police investigations are not because they have uncovered anything new – they started because I made sure that we got to the bottom of some historical issues, told them what we’d found, and this in turn led to their additional investigations.”

A DCLG spokesperson said: “We are aware of the situation in Cheshire East and we are monitoring it closely.

“This is a local matter and it is paramount that the council continues to work to deliver quality services for residents.

“Removing control from those elected by their constituents is an extremely serious decision and we would only intervene if there was strong evidence of widespread, systemic and extremely serious failure.”

Last month, Cheshire Constabulary launched an investigation into allegations that the council manipulated air quality data. In addition, the council referred concerns about allocation of public funds in making a grant to Berkeley Academy, as well as concerns about land purchases, to the police.

Cheshire East Council’s chief executive Mike Suarez was suspended in April. It is understood this was in relation to a procurement contract.

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