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Third senior officer suspended in conduct probe

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Cheshire East Council’s chief operating officer has become the third senior manager to be suspended amid ongoing police investigations into the council. 

The council’s investigation and disciplinary committee yesterday took the decision to suspend Peter Bates, who was previously stripped of the section 151 officer duties he held as part of his role in May.

The council’s chief executive Mike Suarez was suspended in April and the committee also removed the duties of monitoring officer Bill Norman the following month.

These two decisions were reviewed by the committee in September and both remain suspended.

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.

Referring to the suspension of Mr Bates, in a statement the chairman of the disciplinary committee, who the council declined to name, said: “We would stress that suspension is a neutral act taken in the interests of both the council and the individual. It would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage.”

A council spokesman said appropriate arrangements will be put in place to ensure that the responsibilities of the role are covered.

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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