THURROCK TORIES claim that Thurrock Council will launch its own investigation into the handling of requests for information surrounding possible benefits probes surrounding a Tilbury councillor.
Last week, it was reported that Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park ward councillor and mum-of-ten Claire Baldwin was involved in an investigation by Epping Forest District Council into an alleged housing benefit matter.
Following a meeting on Monday night, Thurrock Tories released a press release claiming that Chief Executive Graham Farrant has launched an independent probe into how the council dealt with questions about the investigation.
Following questions from the Thurrock Gazette newspaper and a Freedom of Information request, the Council issued a statement saying: “The Council has not prosecuted or completed any investigations against councillors or senior Council staff in the last year.”
Whether this was disingenuous or designed to mislead is debatable but either way it led to allegations of “cover-up” and political collusion.
The circumstances led to the meeting taking place on Monday between Conservative leader Cllr Phil Anderson, his deputy Cllr Rob Gledhill and Mr Farrant.
The Tories later issued a press release that an internal probe was underway and the case would reviewed by an external organisation, probably the Council’s auditor RSM Tenon.
Cllr Anderson said: “I am pleased that the Council seem to be taking this matter seriously and are accepting that there must be no appearance of a cover-up here.
“Cllr Baldwin should expect to be treated exactly the same as any other member of the public: that means a fair and impartial investigation, followed if necessary by a fair and impartial trial.
“My concern is that so far that doesn’t seem to have happened.
“We will be keeping the pressure on to make sure that there are no further delays and that any internal mishandling of this case is exposed and dealt with.”
However, when YT asked Thurrock Council to confirm or deny whether such an investigation was taking place, they issued the following statement.
“The only time Thurrock Council would make any comment on fraud investigations it was carrying out would be when court action was being taken and possibly not until the court had made a decision
“Therefore it would be inappropriate to comment on allegations such as the ones in your email and the council cannot confirm or deny the allegations.”