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Opposition chiefs voice frustration over length of time taken to investigate conduct of Flintshire council leader

Opposition chiefs have voiced their frustration over how long an investigation into the leader of Flintshire Council is taking.

A complaint was raised regarding allegations of an affair between Cllr Aaron Shotton and a female member of staff in June.

The woman was later reported to have been sacked by the local authority, but the Ombudsman’s investigation into the Labour politician’s conduct remains ongoing.

Cllr Mike Peers, who represents the second largest group on the council, said he had received few updates since concerns were initially raised.

He added that he was losing patience with the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales over the prolonged process.
The head of the Independent Alliance Group said: “We’ve got a group leader’s meeting at the end of the month and we are going to be asking questions because it seems a bit cloak and dagger to me. We’re not happy about it.

“It is dragging on and it seems to be unprecedented.

“We can’t really get any information from the monitoring officer because he tells us it’s down to data protection.

“We followed due process and let the Ombudsman get on with it, but your patience starts to wear a bit thin after six or seven months.

“I fully respect the Ombudsman has to do his job, but it would’ve been nice if he could give us an update rather than stay completely silent on it.”

Opposition councillors previously called for Cllr Shotton to step down voluntarily while the allegations are examined.

However, the Connah’s Quay Central representative said he would be continuing in his role pending the outcome of the investigation.

Earlier this week he led a delegation of councillors from all parties on a visit to Cardiff to ask the Welsh Government for improved funding.

Cllr Clive Carver, leader of the Conservative group, has also joined calls for further information to be given on the investigation process.

He said: “It does seem to be taking a long time and I’m sure the Ombudsman’s got reasons, but it would be good to get an update at this stage.

“I think most councillors expected something certainly before Christmas, but not knowing what the complaint was doesn’t really help either.

“I think the worry is that whilst most councillors would understand it’s a process which has its own system, members of the public will see it differently.”

A Public Services Ombudsman for Wales spokesman said: “All investigations are conducted in private and therefore the Ombudsman is not in a position to comment further.

“It is not possible to say how long the investigation will take to conclude.”

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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