Suspension for the Seaford town clerk

Sam Shippen
Sam Shippen

The town clerk at Seaford Town Council has been suspended while an investigation is carried out after allegations about the running of the council.

Last week at a meeting, councillors decided to form a committee to deal with the recommendations of the independent investigation carried out by Sheelagh Douglas.

It is expected that this process will take a few weeks and the town council said no further statements would be made until the full council has considered the findings.

At a private meeting of Seaford Town Council last week, held after the public meeting on Thursday, April 10, the Sussex Express understands councillors voted to suspend Mrs Shippen for eight weeks pending further investigation.

Commenting on the private session, leader of the town council, Paul Franklin, said it was an exempt item for councillors only.

Leaking it was in breach of code of conduct.

This was standard procedure at the council.

Seaford MP Norman Baker has previously called for the suspension of the Seaford Town Clerk.

He also requested a full and independent investigation into the running of the council, following a number of concerns raised by residents.

During the public part of the meeting, held at Seaford Baptist Church, Ms Douglas, from independent local government specialist group B3Sixty, revealed there were ‘substantial issues’ which required urgent attention.

The report was commissioned by the town council in response to criticisms levelled by Mr Baker.

Costing thousands of pounds, the investigation also acknowledged there were either at least elements of the truth or fact in most of the concerns raised by the MP.

However, there were also understandable reasons or circumstances behind some of the apparent failings which needed to be taken into account.

The report said in some cases the allegations were purely the result of misunderstandings about how things worked.

In a press release issued by the town council following the meeting, it said the report concluded that while some changes were needed, on the whole the town council was doing a good job with the limited resources it had.

Ms Douglas said the council needed to improve the way it communicated with the public.

She pointed out the high turnover of staff, who had different filing systems, which meant correspondence was mislaid or forgotten about.