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Senior Babergh councillor Simon Barrett suspended by Tories after “leak” allegation

PUBLISHED: 15:12 01 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:15 01 December 2017

Babergh councillor Simon Barrett. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Babergh councillor Simon Barrett. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The former deputy leader of Babergh council has been suspended by the authority’s Conservative group after he was accused of leaking confidential information at an open meeting.

Simon Barrett (left, foreground) made the comment during this Babergh meeting at Endeavour House in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATERSimon Barrett (left, foreground) made the comment during this Babergh meeting at Endeavour House in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Simon Barrett left the council’s cabinet earlier this year after losing a power struggle with the authority’s leader Jennie Jenkins, and has since been a fierce critic of the leadership from the backbenches.

He has recently been one of the leaders of the opposition to plans to push forward a merger with Mid Suffolk District Council unless there is another public referendum.

Now the Conservative group at the council has suspended him for three months after he revealed details of a private meeting to his party’s group by the council chief executive Arthur Charvonia at a council meeting earlier this month.

He said Mr Charvonia had told the Conservative group that the decision on the merger could be made by the cabinet, but he felt there was a “moral duty” for the public to be consulted.

Mr Barrett said he accepted the discussions within the group were confidential, but he did not feel that applied to advice from outsiders.

The suspension means he will not be able to attend group meetings – but it will also mean he will not be expected to necessarily vote in the same way as the rest of the Conservative councillors.

But he was not concerned about the suspension.

“It just means I will sit as an independent and do what I please for the next three months,” he said. “It isn’t going to shut me up – especially on the question of the merger consultation.

“It’s only the Conservative group at the council that has suspended me.

“I’m still Treasurer of the South Suffolk Conservative Association.

“It doesn’t bother me at all.”

A special meeting of the council is due to take place on Monday to see full details of the legal advice on the proposed merger – but any decision on starting public consultation on the issue will be decided by the council’s cabinet.

That is united in its support for starting merger consultations – but there are enough rebel Conservatives on the backbenches to link up with the independent, Liberal Democrat, and Labour opposition councillors to frustrate the progress of the consultation at full council meetings.

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