Council leader in shock resignation and police confirm financial inquiry

Iain Malcolm, who resigned both as a councillor and leader of South Tyneside Council today. Police confirmed an inquiry into ‘financial concerns’ at the authority.

 

THE shock resignation of the leader of South Tyneside Council was announced today, as police confirmed an ongoing investigation into “financial concerns” raised by the authority.

Neither police nor council would comment on whether the two revelations were connected.

Police said their inquiries were triggered by the authority itself. A spokesperson for the Northumbria force told SR News: “We can confirm there is an ongoing investigation after concerns of a financial nature were raised by South Tyneside Council.”

Mr Malcom resigned “with immediate effect” – not only as leader but also as a councillor after 32 years in political office – after spending 12 years in charge of the authority, during which he also built a formidable career in the Labour Party’s regional political hierarchy.

As the news broke, SR News tried to contact Mr Malcolm for comment both by email and phone, but at the time of publication had had no response.

His departure follows months of growing controversy over his conduct.

In August the council launched its own internal investigation into alleged bullying by him, after accusations made in a formal letter of complaint written by two of its most senior officials; corporate director Stuart Reid and head of corporate and external affairs Nicola Robason.

They detailed a series of complaints against the Labour chief, in which they claimed the “levels of abuse” from Mr Malcolm had become intolerable.

Their letter referred to a meeting on July 6 – during which a complaint of impropriety against Coun Malcolm was being discussed – when he was accused of threatening officers with dismissal if they pursued the complaint.

The letter also detailed three other alleged incidents where he was accused of bullying senior figures within the council.

At the time, South Shields MP Emma Lewell Buck – who has previously made allegations against Mr Malcolm – tweeted: “I received a copy of this letter a number of weeks ago and believed it was something which needed to be seen by the police, the Labour party nationally and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, so duly passed it to them.”

She also made reference to the “fractured nature of my own relationship with the council leadership and their small gang of supporters within the constituency party”.

A spokesperson for South Tyneside Council said today: “We can confirm that Iain Malcolm has resigned as leader of the council and elected member for Horsley Hill with immediate effect.

“The deputy leader will, for the time being, assume duties formerly undertaken by the leader, as per the council constitution.”

Mr Malcolm’s resignation leaves the council officially without its two most powerful figures, following the September retirement of chief executive Martin Swales.

Coun Tracey Dixon, however, will perform the leader’s duties until a new leader can be officially elected, while the council’s head of paid services, George Mansbridge, is doing the job of chief executive until a new one can be appointed.

The council spokesperson added: “A vacancy in the Horsley Hill ward will be declared at the next meeting of borough council. All elections were suspended by the government in May 2020 and we await further guidance on this before we can advise on any future by-election for the ward.”

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