‘Fear and paranoia is at a dangerous level at Welwyn Hatfield Council’ claim

Campus East

Campus East - Credit: Archant

Bosses at Welwyn Hatfield Council have come under scathing attack, amid claims a culture of fear has stifled debate.

Cllr Kieran Thorpe

Cllr Kieran Thorpe - Credit: Archant

At the authority’s annual meeting, councillor Kieran Thorpe, who heads the opposition Labour group, blasted the leadership.

He claimed big decisions were made “behind closed doors” with “little or increasingly no debate or scrutiny”.

Cllr Thorpe also said views from critics outside the council were “dismissed”.

But his comments were branded “disgraceful” by the council’s leader, who challenged Cllr Thorpe to produce evidence.

John Dean, leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council

John Dean, leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council - Credit: Archant

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The Labour group leader told last week’s meeting: “It’s a dangerous way to run a council. Fear and paranoia prevents discussion.”

And he continued: “Too often I hear now: ‘I’ve never come across a council like this’ from those who deal with councils up and down the country.

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“Too often I hear from residents, how this council is corrupt.

“Too often I have to explain it isn’t corrupt, it’s completely inert. Blinkered.”

He also said members were not kept informed about senior staff coming and going, and said projects kept on “fizzling out”.

The comments were made at the council’s annual meeting, where civic awards were handed out and grants awarded to promising young sports competitors.

Councillor John Dean, leader of the council, accused his opponent of using a celebratory occasion to “score cheap political points”.

“I thought it was absolutely disgraceful,” he said.

“He (Cllr Thorpe) clearly doesn’t understand the importance of that meeting.”

But he said he was alarmed to hear Cllr Thorpe’s claim that some thought the council was corrupt, and challenged his opponent: “If he’s got the facts I’d really like to hear about them.

“I’ve never had the council accused of something like that. If rumours are spreading I would like to see his evidence.”

He continued: “My door is always open.”

The council leader hit back at allegations that business was being done “behind closed doors”, stating: “Everything we do is completely transparent. Reports are made public and everything goes through the cabinet.”

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