Authority rules that no further action should be taken against parish council leader after row

Rowlands Castle parish chairman rofessor John Pickering
Rowlands Castle parish chairman rofessor John Pickering
  • East Hampshire District Council says using public funds to examine the matter further would be ‘disproportionate’
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AN AUTHORITY will be taking no further action against a parish council leader at the centre of a row.

An investigation by the monitoring team of East Hampshire District Council concluded the authority will be taking no further action against Councillor John Pickering, chairman of Rowlands Castle Parish Council.

It comes after his fellow councillors made complaints about his conduct.

As reported, parish councillors voted unanimously in a ‘vote of no confidence’ in Cllr Pickering at a public meeting two weeks ago.

But Cllr Pickering has vowed to continue his chairmanship until May.

The monitoring team also looked into complaints made by Cllr Pickering about his fellow councillors and concluded no further action would be taken.

The decision notices, which are a matter of public record, have been seen by The News.

The complaints by other councillors followed a heated meeting on December 7 last year.

In her report, Sara Bryan, deputy monitoring officer, said: ‘The monitoring team considers that the chairman may have breached paragraph 8 of Rowlands Castle’s Code of Conduct in that by leadership and example, he did not demonstrate high standards of conduct.’

She adds: ‘The monitoring team notes that the clerk has raised a formal grievance against the chairman, further to her contract of employment.

‘The monitoring team therefore does not intend to take any action which may prejudice the parish council or any individual councillor in what is a sensitive employment matter.

‘Therefore, taking into account the nature of the allegation the monitoring team considers that using public funds to examine the matter further would be disproportionate.’

Part of the allegation by councillors was that Cllr Pickering unlawfully delegated authority to himself by sending a letter to Councillor Sean Woodward, who leads transport at Hampshire County Council.

But Ms Bryan’s report states Cllr Pickering was legally entitled to send the letter.

Her statement said ‘there may be occasions where the council chairman should deal with enquiries or make representations to other bodies’.

Other councillors made complaints that Cllr Pickering insisted seeing correspondence not addressed to him.

But the report states: ‘Cllr Pickering made it clear that he was seeking the other councillors’ response to his draft reply, then he is entitled to see their responses in full, as long as emails do not contain information which can properly be construed as “confidential”.’

The report adds: ‘The monitoring team is disappointed with the apparent breakdown in working relations within Rowlands Castle Parish Council.’