Complaint goes to Ombudsman

AN INVESTIGATION into a council officer's conduct during a planning meeting has been re- ferred to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Last autumn, Maidstone Bor- ough Council staffer Austin Mackie mistakenly messaged a developer during an online com- mittee so that everyone could read it. In the email, Mr Mackie referred

to the elected members, for whom he works, as “they” and himself and the applicant as “we”. Although Mr Mackie was exon- erated by Maidstone Borough Council's internal complaints pro- cedure, he and other planning of- ficials were ordered not to “correspond” with developers during virtual meetings. But the resident who first com- plained of Mr Mackie's conduct is not satisfied and appealed to the Local Government Ombudsman. The Office of the ombudsman is now investigating with MBC's co- operation.

An MBC spokesman said: "The

council is satisfied that Mr Mackie has no relationship of any form with the applicant. He had no knowledge of, nor any dealings with, the applicant or his com- pany prior to receiving the plan- ning applications and has had no contact of any sort with the same since the committee resolved to grant planning permission. "The resident has since taken their complaint to the Local Gov- ernment Ombudsman. The om- budsman is currently conducting their investigation and the council

has fully complied with their en- quiries."

Former independent borough councillor Eddie Powell, pictured, said: “Let's hope that the Local Government Ombudsman can shed some light on this ongoing saga." A statement released by MBC in March said: “Regarding the email that Mr Mackie was witnessed drafting during the planning com- mittee meeting; this type of corre- spondence between a planning officer and an applicant is not un- usual; Mr Mackie was simply out- lining the issues that were raised by the planning committee which the applicant would need to ad- dress going forward. “However, the council does recognise that a committee meet- ing which is still taking place is not the most appropriate time for an officer to begin drafting emails. Therefore ... all planning officers have been advised that they should not correspond with any parties during committee meet- ings.”

Village gets open air gym

A NEW adult gym has been installed in Marden. The equipment was fitted on April 30 at the Playing Field. Cllr Kate Tippen (pictured) popped down to try the equipment out for herself. A spokesman for the

parish council said: “There will be a sign up soon with all the pieces of equipment on the field. “If you scan the barcode

from your phone, you will be taken to the website to see how to use each piece.”


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