Former Tory Council Leader Resigns After Poor Behaviour Breaks Code of Conduct

February 15, 2021 10:55 AM

In a shock statement during last Thursday's meeting of Woking Borough Council, former Tory leader Cllr David Bittleston apologised for breaking the Members' Code of Conduct, and announced that he was resigning on 30 March, barely six weeks before he was due to retire anyway. Cllr Bittleston blamed his poor behaviour which broke the Members' Code of Conduct on the "stress and strain" of having to stay on as leader through most of the coronavirus pandemic.

In response, Lib Dem leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker said, "I welcome Cllr Bittleston's apology, although it is a shame he did not wait for the complaints process to run its course before announcing his resignation. He did not apologise for the actions which led to the complaint being made against him, nor did he apologise for his actions to the Councillor who made the complaint."

Cllr Bittleston's leadership had been dogged with crises. During 2019, he faced a vote of no confidence in which none of his Conservative councillors supported him. The vote was re-run three months later, and he survived as leader.

Cllr Bittleston's seat in Mount Hermon will be contested in the forthcoming local elections on 6 May 2021.

Notes

When a complaint is made against a member of Woking Council, that complaint is confidential to those involved in the complaint and Group Leaders of the parties represented on the Council. The complaint against Cllr Bittleston had been determined by an external person and reported to the parties involved in draft form only. The next step should have been the issue of the final decision. Once that decision had been made it would have been for the Council's monitoring officer and the complainant to determine the next step. An apology was one avenue, but the matter could also have been referred to the Council's Standards Committee which would then decide if further action was needed. Cllr Bittleston ignored the agreed process, as set down in the Council's constitution. By resigning early he clearly seeks to avoid a decision being made by the Standards Committee.