An MP has accused Bournemouth BC’s leader of making his chief executive redundant to forestall an investigation of his business affairs.
Christchurch’s Conservative MP Christopher Chope said in parliament that John Beesley (Con) had made Tony Williams’ redundant last week to prevent him launching an investigation of his Hospitality Solutions business.
The row came after Christchurch BC resolved to ignore its monitoring officer’s advice and hold a local referendum on a proposal to merge with Bournemouth and Poole BC in a new unitary, with another unitary created for the rest of Dorset.
Bournemouth supports the merger, but Christchurch opposes it and Mr Chope has supported the council.
The MP said in parliament: “Bournemouth has a local reputation for being profligate, spendthrift and secretive”
He questioned why Mr Williams was awarded a £394,000 payoff and said: “It seems as though the chief executive has fallen out of favour with the leader of Bournemouth Borough Council because the chief executive questioned the council leader’s conflicts of interest with his businesses.”
Hospitality Solutions’ website says the company offers advice on town planning consultations for hotel and leisure development and other planning matters, the MP noted.
Mr Chope said: “What I suspect happened is that that…caused the chief executive to raise his eyebrow, that he was about to start an investigation into the leader of the council’s conduct and conflicts of interest, and that the leader of the council has in effect used public money to ensure that the chief executive’s best interests are served by taking the money and not inquiring any further into those issues.”
Cllr Beesley said in a statement he had no disagreement with Mr Williams.
Cllr Beesley said: “There has been speculation that the redundancy of the chief executive’s post came about in order to prevent an investigation by the chief executive into my business, Hospitality Solutions.
“I can confirm that as far as I know, the council has not been provided with any evidence from the former chief executive on this matter, nor has any information been requested by him to undertake an investigation or enquiry.”
He said Mr Williams’ request for redundancy in early 2016 was rejected but he later became ill and the council adapted for four months to running without him.
Cllr Beesley said: “Mr Williams proposed again that his redundancy presented an opportunity for the council to bring forward savings to 2017-18. Proceeding with this redundancy now delivers a saving to Bournemouth of £164,000 per annum that would not otherwise be achieved.”