Complaint against councillor upheld - costing council £12,000

Cllr David Beavan
Cllr David Beavan

A councillor has been asked to apologise after a code of conduct complaint against him was upheld.

Wednesday's final full meeting of East Suffolk Council before the upcoming local elections shed light on a complaint against Cllr David Beavan - the handling of which has cost around £12,000.

The subject was an email sent by Cllr Beavan to an officer and someone applying for housing in the Southwold and Reydon ward, which suggested the officer could have been “fiddling the figures” by changing the applicant’s housing band.

A copy of the offending email seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service states: “It is not your fault that there are not enough social homes, but to adjust an assessment of housing need because there are not enough homes is fiddling the figures!”

East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Richard Kerry
East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Richard Kerry

Cllr Richard Kerry

The complaint was lodged by Cllr Richard Kerry, cabinet member for housing, last May.

Cllr Beavan, who leads the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent (GLI) opposition group at the council, claims this was politically motivated. Cllr Kerry is a Conservative.

The monitoring officer decided there had been a potential breach of the Code of Conduct and repeatedly asked Cllr Beavan to either retract the statement or apologise to three officers in housing services.

An investigation by an external lawyer later found the councillor had not complied with three Code of Conduct provisions.

Cllr Beavan did not issue a formal apology, though he claims he emailed an apology to the officer and suggested a “peace offering” of a bunch of daffodils from his allotment.

Conservative Cllr Alison Cackett said: “As an ex-officer of the council, I would have been absolutely mortified if I had been sent that email. Officers do their best for this council and always have done.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Peter Byatt
East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Peter Byatt


Labour Cllr Peter Byatt also spoke against Cllr Beavan, stating: “To me, you do not ever attack an officer”.

Cllr Beavan said after the meeting: “The email does not actually accuse the officer of anything.

“It says that the availability of housing should not be a consideration in a banding decision, and if someone were to do that it would be “fiddling the figures”.

“I reiterated at the time to the officers that I was not accusing them of anything. Obviously, I regret any hurt caused to them.

“On reflection, I would not have put that phrase in the email. I have emailed an apology to them and offered a bunch of daffodils from my allotment as a peace offering.

“The homeless family was given a band B home in the ward afterwards but are still homeless and in temporary accommodation.

“It looks likely they will have to leave our community because there is no housing for them. The hurt to young families of the housing crisis is something I care deeply about.

“Cllr Kerry has made a mountain out of molehill for party political purposes, timing this for the election period and wasting officer time and £12,000 of ratepayers’ money in a 200 page report.

“He should apologise to all the homeless families in East Suffolk for his failed policy to increase our council houses by 621.

“Instead, he has reduced the stock by selling 36 more than he has built. I will not be intimidated into silence about this failure of his.”

Councillors at yesterday’s meeting voted for noting decisions taken by the audit and governance committee on Monday – to agree with the lawyer’s conclusion, to ask Cllr Beavan to apologise again and to ensure he undertake code of conduct training if he is re-elected in May.

The committee also decided that if Cllr Beavan does not formally apologise, the matter will be reported in open session at a full council meeting after the elections in May 2023.