County councillors clash over leaked pay for top executive

County Coun John Fillis, deputy leader of the Labour group
County Coun John Fillis, deputy leader of the Labour group
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A County Hall row over leaked information on top salaries has escalated after leaders of the two biggest political parties lodged complaints about each other.

The clash over just what and what is not in the public interest erupted after the opposition Labour group revealed Lancashire County Council's new Interim Director of Children’s Services John Readman will be paid £1,125 a day.

County Council leader Coun Geoff Driver

County Council leader Coun Geoff Driver

Outraged council leader County Coun Geoff Driver complained that Labour had breached the Code of Conduct for elected members. A council officer is now investigating to see whether a formal investigation should be launched.

At last week’s council meeting Coun Driver publicly accused Labour leader Coun Azhar Ali and other Labour councillors of leaking confidential information.

In turn Coun Ali has now complained to the council’s Chief Executive about Coun Driver’s comments.

Meanwhile Deputy Labour group leader Coun John Fillis admitted releasing the information about John Readman’s salary and accused Coun Driver of trying to gag Labour over issues in the public interest.

County Coun Azhar Ali, leader of the Labour group

County Coun Azhar Ali, leader of the Labour group

Coun Fillis said: “I recognise that this may result in disciplinary action against myself, which I accept. I believe that the people of Lancashire have a right to know what this Conservative council is spending their money on. Especially now they have increased council tax by six per cent while cutting vital services. It does not surprise me that the leader of the council is attempting to gag those who would expose the Conservative’s incompetence.”

Coun Driver said: “They’ve been councillors long enough to know that it’s a breach of the councillors’ code of conduct if you leak information that has been classified as confidential. There can be no excuse. There is no doubt at all that the information is deemed in law to be confidential. ”

He said he could not reveal the salary but said: "We are having to pay the market rate."

Coun Driver added: "The actual cost over the period of this interim directorship would be a fraction more than we would have paid if we had made the full appointment for the period. Labour are counting the gross costs. They are not taking account of the fact we would have had to pay a director anyway."

He said that despite interviewing for the post no suitable permanent candidate had been identified.

Coun Ali challenged Coun Driver to produce evidence of him or other councillors leaking information and said : “There’s a difference between information marked confidential and reports or comments about issues. I've asked the Chief Executive to investigate it under the code of conduct.”