'Utterly extraordinary' says Lib Dem leader of disgraced deputy leader's criticisms

Manor Farm decision day

D-Day: Cllr Mike Shellens, left, as chair of the audit committee has a huge role to play in the decision on the farmgate report. Chief executive Gillian Beasley, right, says it is a committee decision whether to publish. Manor Farm, centre, and its tenancy is what it is all about - Credit: Archant

Liberal Democrat and Labour groups on Cambridgeshire County Council reacted to Roger Hickford’s criticisms of the council.

They argued it raises questions over the Conservatives’ leadership. 

The leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, Lucy Nethsingha, said the statement was “utterly extraordinary”. 

She said: “He appears to be extremely critical of the council where he was deputy leader until last Friday. 

“What on earth does this statement imply about the competence of Steve Count, who has been leader of Cambridgeshire for the past seven years? 

Cllr Nethsingha added: “Roger Hickford appears to be blaming council officers for the situation in which he found himself, yet he and his Conservative colleagues were the ones responsible for the leadership at Cambridgeshire County Council. 

“He must not be allowed to shift the blame onto officers, especially while the report remains unpublished, and those of whom criticism is implied are not able to speak out.” 

Most Read

“The fact that this report has been surrounded by so much secrecy is troubling,” she added. “It is clear from Roger Hickford’s resignation that the contents of the report are significant”. 

Leader of the Labour group, councillor Elisa Meschini, said: “The situation has been dreadfully mismanaged by the Tories as it should have been obvious that there was a conflict of interest. 

“Given all the controversy surrounding what has been dubbed ‘farmgate’, it would be best to clear things up and publish the report. Then the public can judge for themselves. 

“If the audits and accounts committee choose not to publish the report on this issue at their meeting tomorrow it will be truly disgraceful.” 

She added: “If there’s nothing to hide, why hide the report? As ex-Councillor Hickford appears to be trying to blame incompetence in his own administration, then we definitely need so see what the audit report has to say about what really happened.” 

Leader of the council and the Conservative group, councillor Steve Count, declined to comment.