Andrea Hill accepts deal to quit Suffolk County Council

Suffolk County Council chief executive Andrea Hill has accepted a six-figure pay-off to step down and has been cleared of bullying and dishonesty.

Ms Hill is to receive £218,592 under the deal, equal to a year's salary.

An investigation found no evidence to support allegations that she had bullied and harassed staff or dishonestly claimed expenses.

She has been on extended leave since Easter following a complaint by an anonymous whistle-blower.

Ms Hill, a 47-year-old mother-of-three, has been a controversial figure since her appointment in 2008, both for her £218,000 salary and the "New Strategic Direction" policy she championed of outsourcing services.

An independent inquiry was started into the running of the authority's legal department after David White, the council's acting head of legal services, was found hanged in Butley Woods, near Woodbridge, on 4 April.

'Robust investigation'

The council's dismissals appeals committee met to discuss her future.

In a statement, a Suffolk County Council spokesman said: "Bullying and harassment allegations were robustly investigated by an independent firm of solicitors.

"Although it remains a concern that such a perception existed, the committee is satisfied that there was no evidence to support those claims or that she was responsible for the death of David White.

"The committee wants to reassure staff that all allegations are treated extremely seriously."

Regarding Ms Hill's expenses claims, the statement said the committee accepted there was no dishonesty, but that there were "undoubtedly claims which, in the current climate, might not represent best use of public money".

The statement said Ms Hill would be leaving her post with immediate effect.

"There has been significant media attention attached to Mrs Hill which has become a distraction and both parties accept that with new political leadership of Suffolk County Council in place, it is better to allow the organisation to move forward with new managerial leadership."

'Unfortunate period'

It continued: "The county council would like to thank Mrs Hill for all she has done over the past three years and wish her well for her future."

It is understood that the costs of any further investigation and disciplinary procedure would have left the council facing a bill of £250,000.

Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, is unhappy Mrs Hill is receiving a year's salary as compensation.

He said: "In the nature of these things it's always expensive to get rid of people - whether they're on £21,000 or £218,000. It's something I hope the government will look at.

"I don't think that a year's salary is appropriate in this instance but it's the very least that they could have got away with.

"It's a very unhappy period which has now come to a close.

"I'm pleased, like I'm sure many people across the county are, that this is finished.

"I hope that the new council with a new leader will be able to move on from what I think undoubtedly has been one of the most unfortunate periods in our county's recent history."

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