A COUNCILLOR under investigation for alleged benefit fraud heckled as questions about the probe came up at a full council meeting.
Cllr Clare Baldwin, who has been under investigation since October, shouted “isn’t this getting boring now” as the leader of the opposition asked about the investigation into her.
The council’s Labour leader then claimed it could take three years for the investigation into allegations against her to be completed, after citing a recently concluded case that started in 2010.
Mayor Tony Fish gave Cllr Baldwin a ticking off for interrupting as John Kent, the council leader, was asked by his counterpart, Phil Anderson, whether an investigation was being held into how information about the investigation was leaked in May.
Cllr Kent confirmed Cllr Baldwin had put a complaint into Thurrock Council’s information officer and the disclosure of her personal data was being looked into.
This drew criticism from Cllr Anderson that the Labour Party are “losing sight” of the original investigation and he sought assurance the same “speed and rigour” was being demonstrated in the investigation of alleged benefit fraud as it is to the leak.
Cllr Kent said: “After what looks like a blatant leak of confidential information, I can confirm that officers have, under the Data Protection Act, launched an investigation.
“We need to know just how that information got into the public domain. I’m sure Cllr Anderson will cooperate fully with that inquiry.”
On the investigation into allegations made against the Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park ward councillor, which already date back to October 2012, Cllr Kent said: “As for an investigation which may or may not be being carried out into a member of this authority, no member, no matter who they are, may interfere with that kind of independent investigation and the suggestion that I should is frankly appalling.
“These things can be hideously complex and will take as long as they take.”
Speaking after last Wednesday’s meeting, Cllr Phil Anderson said: “Cllr Kent has admitted the council managed to produce a report into how news of the investigation into Cllr Baldwin came out within a matter of weeks.
“Compare that to the investigation into the actual allegations of benefit fraud themselves. This has apparently been going on for at least 10 months, and has still not led to any action.
“When you have serious allegations against an elected councillor, delays like this are simply unacceptable.
“Yet again I am calling on Cllr Kent to join me in demanding this is all resolved as swiftly and openly as possible.”