THOUSANDS of pounds is set to be spent on a solicitor to banish an alleged ‘bullying culture’ at Portsmouth City Council.
Council leader Donna Jones says the administration has appointed Richard Lingard to hold councillors to account and clean up their act.
It comes after calls were made by Councillor Eleanor Scott for an independent investigation into the actions of elected members after she quit the Lib Dem group this year.
Mr Lingard was in charge of investigating claims in 2012 that Richard Williams, then leader of Southampton City Council, lied about the resignation of a cabinet member.
The inquiry led to Mr Williams’ quitting his post last year. Cllr Jones said Mr Lingard would be paid around £5,000 to do the work, about the same amount spent on the Southampton probe.
Cllr Scott said: ‘I am very glad there is going to be a proper investigation.
‘If it’s going to be done properly and forensically and have a lasting impact and clean up the council, then it is money well spent.’
Cllr Jones said: ‘Based on his extensive experience in public service he is the perfect man for the job.
‘It’s absolutely imperative that any individual who has been bullied by any councillor feels confident that their complaint is dealt with.’
Mr Lingard said: ‘I am a completely independent investigator, and I will hear evidence and interview all the relevant people and form a view. If it is a straightforward matter, it could take between two or three weeks.’
The move also comes after MP Penny Mordaunt said she had a stack of complaints against councillors.
Council staff will be given Mr Lingard’s contact details on Monday so they can submit their complaints. He will then conduct interviews with them and those supposedly to blame before forming a conclusion.
Cllr Jones said the findings will be sent to Nick Clegg, Lib Dem national leader, to go with the results of a review the party is carrying out into Portsmouth party members.
Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the probe could appear as a ‘political witchhunt’ as no specific allegations have been brought forward first.