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Monitoring officer resigns amid police probe

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Cheshire East Council’s director of legal services and monitoring officer has resigned after being suspended along with two other senior officers amid police investigations into the council.

Cheshire East confirmed Bill Norman’s resignation was accepted yesterday.

The unnamed chairman of the council’s disciplinary panel, which is also investigating chief executive Mike Suarez and chief operating officer Peter Bates, said it had “concluded its business with Mr Norman” as a result of his decision to step down.

Cheshire Constabulary launched an investigation into allegations that the council manipulated air quality data after the council alerted police officers to concerns in July. Police are also investigating the allocation of public funds to Berkeley Academy and concerns about land purchases after the council referred the matters to them.

The panel last week suspended Mr Bates, who was previously stripped of the section 151 officer duties he held as part of his role in May.

Mr Suarez was suspended in April and the panel also removed the duties of Mr Norman the following month.

A Cheshire East spokesperson said: “Recruitment to the permanent position of director of legal services and monitoring officer will be progressed as soon as is practicable.”

LGC previously reported how the Department for Communities & Local Government is closely “monitoring” Cheshire East Council amid calls, from a group of Independent councillors, for the cabinet to resign.

In an interview with LGC last month, council leader Rachel Bailey (Con) said she found the calls for commissioners to be sent in to the council “bizarre” and “frightening”, especially as the local authority had proactively referred to the police the most recent matters which are now subject to investigation.

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