Council to pay £8k for its ‘unlawful’ action

Daventry Town Council has been forced to apologise and pay out nearly £8,000 in legal costs after ‘unlawfully’ suspending one of its members from committees.

The announcement of the conclusion of a judicial review was made on Monday.

In March last year the town council held a meeting into actions by Cllr Eric Macanndrais. The council decided Cllr Macanndrais had breached the code of conduct, and asked him to apologise and then suspended him from committee activities.

But, as was pointed out in the judicial review, the town council had no legal powers to police the code of conduct.

At Monday’s meeting the town’s new mayor, Cllr Mark Wesley, read out an agreed statement following the conclusion of the judicial review describing the council’s actions as ‘unlawful’.

He said: “The claimant was raising a matter of public interest which he had the right to do. The defendant [the council] was not the correct body to deal with monitoring the code of conduct and further it did not follow the correct procedure.

“The decision to suspend and request an apology was one that no reasonable committee should have taken.”

The agreed resolution between Cllr Macanndrais and the council states that the town council recognises it had no power to censure a member, that it apologised to Cllr Macanndrais and paid an agreed amount of his legal fees – £7,894.14.

At Monday night’s meeting the councillors formally agreed to pay the money.

In a press statement the town clerk, Deborah Jewell, said: “Councillor Macanndrais’ claim for judicial review has now been resolved by agreement between the parties, and Daventry Town Council apologises to Cllr Macanndrais for the unlawful imposition of sanctions on him.

“Daventry Town Council has accepted that it did not have the power to impose the sanctions it purported to impose on Cllr Macanndrais on March 12, 2012, and which formed the basis of his claim for judicial review, because at the material time the responsibility for monitoring the observation of the defendant’s [the town council’s] code of conduct fell exclusively to the standards committee of Daventry District Council under sections 53 to 55 of the Local Government Act 2000 (as then in force).”