Sandwell Council leader calls for predecessor to apologise over suspensions

A council leader has called for her predecessor to apologise after six cabinet secretaries were wrongly suspended.

Sandwell Council leader Councillor Yvonne Davies has been in a war of words with ex-council chief Steve Eling
Sandwell Council leader Councillor Yvonne Davies has been in a war of words with ex-council chief Steve Eling

Sandwell leader Yvonne Davies has questioned Steve Eling's ethics after the suspensions were made under his leadership in January 2018.

Mr Eling, who stepped down as a councillor in May, has denied he was responsible for the decisions.

But an independent investigation, which commenced in July, has found the suspensions were wrongly made.

Yvonne Davies, who became council leader in May, told the Express & Star: "How is it that Mr Eling is not outraged at the injustice heaped upon his (former) secretaries?

"Why is he not apologising for the miscarriage of justice that took place under his watch?

"His own personal secretary march off the premises for 'gossip' - without due regard to the proper process. Why is he not enraged?"

The secretaries were suspended for allegedly leaking information about the existence of a secret meeting.

Sandwell Council House in Oldbury

But the investigation found that the secretaries were not responsible. The meeting was held before an ethics hearing into a councillor's conduct.

Councillor Davies said it was highly likely Mr Eling was involved in talks which lead to the suspensions.

Mr Eling denied this. He issued a sharp response to councillor Davies and announced he was launching an official complaint against her with Sandwell Council.

The secret meeting took place the night before the ethics hearing, which was into the conduct of Councillor Ian Jones.

The hearing found he had breached the members code of conduct for removing a plot of land from public auction.

Sandwell Council chief executive David Stevens has apologised to the secretaries on behalf of the council.

In July he took over from Jan Britton who resigned from his post.

Mr Eling was suspended from Labour in January over a complaint, of which the details have still never come to light.

He then resigned as council leader in February and was replaced by Steve Trow, who served as leader for a short period before stepping down.

Councillor Davies was elected council leader when she defeated Ann Shackleton by 35 votes to 33 in May.

Mr Eling was approached for comment.

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