Sudbury councillor disputes bullying claims after being told to issue apology

Simon Barrett, Sudbury district cllr, who is pleased the transport plan is going for consultation and a fresh start after iniital ideas were not well received.
Simon Barrett, Sudbury district cllr, who is pleased the transport plan is going for consultation and a fresh start after iniital ideas were not well received.

A Sudbury councillor has disputed claims of bullying and lacking respect for a former colleague, after being forced to issue an apology.

A complaint was lodged against Simon Barrett, who represents Sudbury South ward, over his conduct at a public event last year.

Following an investigation, members from the joint audit and standards committee found that Mr Barrett had breached the code of conduct during an alleged dispute with former economic development officer Sue Dawes at a Vision for Prosperity event in Sudbury.

Mr Barrett, who was suspended from his local party group last year over allegations of leaking confidential information, and has since remained as an independent, denied the claims, describing them as being “blown out of all proportion”.

He claims the complaint stemmed from an exchange of words with Mrs Dawes, during which he expressed his disappointment of the event.

The public consultation held in October had been designed to obtain views on the future development of Sudbury to help inform the district’s joint local plan, which Mr Barrett believed it had failed to achieve.

Speaking to the Free Press, he said: “It was the biggest waste of time. I was very disappointed.”

Mr Barrett said he criticised the event for failing to provide the public with key options on potential development.

“I represent the people of Sudbury and I didn’t think it was doing any good for Sudbury at all,” he said.

Mr Barrett strongly denies the bullying claims from the committee’s report, which he has branded “totally inappropriate”.

“I definitely was not rude and my behaviour did not amount to bullying,” he said.

Mr Barrett claims an investigation into the complaint was launched after he refused to apologise to Mrs Dawes, who has since left the council.

“I felt I hadn’t done anything wrong, so they said it had to be escalated,” he said.

But Mr Barrett believes his failed leadership challenge to oust the then leader of Babergh District Council, Jennie Jenkins, had some bearing on the decision to launch an investigation.

“I wonder if it’s because I challenged the leadership,” he said. “They’ve been gunning for me ever since.”

A spokesman from Babergh District Council said: “In accordance with the council’s procedures for dealing with code of conduct complaints, it was agreed that there was a high likelihood that the code had been breached and an external independent investigator was engaged to investigate the complaint.

“The outcome of the investigation was that the code had been breached as the councillor had acted in a way that could be seen as failing to treat others with respect and bullying.”