Key South Ribble Council officer suspended

South Ribble Council Civic Centre, Leyland
South Ribble Council Civic Centre, Leyland
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South Ribble Council has been accused of going into “freefall” after news another senior officer has been suspended.

Ian Parker, the council’s Monitoring Officer who instigated an investigation into reports of child sexual exploitation by taxi drivers, was told the news on Friday. It is believed it was delivered by out-going Chief Executive Mike Nuttall as one of his final acts.

It is the latest upset to hit the council, following news the chief executive is stepping down, Margaret Smith resigned as leader, and two licensing officers are still suspended. There is also no party in overall control after four Tories left the group.

Labour leader Paul Foster said: “The council’s in freefall, it’s a shambles. I don’t know how we drag ourselves out of this mess.”

Councillors were made aware of the situation regarding Mr Parker via email at 5pm on Friday, but mystery surrounds the decision.

A council spokesman said: “We can confirm that a senior officer has been suspended. We are unable to comment further at this time.”

There is no indication the decision is linked to the taxi scandal, but questions have been raised over the impact it will have on a scrutiny review.

The council has declined to say whether Mr Parker has given or was scheduled to give evidence.

The Monitoring Officer has the duty to ensure the council, its officers and its elected members maintain the highest standard of conduct.

A report into the taxi licensing functions states Mr Parker conducted a fact-finding exercise after other officers and members of the council expressed concerns to him. He later indicated that, based on the cases he had reviewed, there had been failings in local investigatory procedures which might have affected the ability of the General Licensing Committee to make proper decisions.