Following further allegations, we’d ask the MP to respect the right Rossendale Borough Council has to make decisions about its own responsibilities without interference. MPs shouldn't try to undermine a council's authority by seeking ministerial intervention in a council’s affairs. If there are issues within the council's jurisdiction, they should be addressed directly with the council, not brought up to ministers. Using parliamentary procedures like questions to ministers or adjournment debates to discuss local authority work is inappropriate. Bringing such matters to ministers serves only to undermine the council's authority, when it is exercising powers that Parliament has given it and it has been elected to carry out.  

The Council rejects the assertions regarding a purported gagging order and alleged legal threats against Councillors. No such order exists, and all council business adheres to the procedure outlined in the Council constitution, consistent with practices in other local councils nationwide. We have asked for evidence supporting the claims of Council misconduct regarding the handling of confidential information by Borough Councillors. However, no evidence substantiating these claims has been provided to date.  

All the issues relating to the East Lancashire Empty Homes scheme have been widely documented and have been in the public domain for at least 10 years.   

Nine years ago, issues were reported to the Council. This followed an independent audit requested by the Council. The purpose of the audit was to provide all elected Members with a clear understanding of the failures of the scheme that occurred between February 2012 (12 years ago) and January 2015 (9 years ago).  

In addition, the police conducted an in-depth investigation, which lasted five years, into issues relating to the scheme. This concluded in 2021 (3 years ago) and found that there was no fraud, no charges would be brought against anyone and that no members of any political party could be held responsible.   

We have a duty to uphold and protect the reputation of the Council when it unfairly comes under attack, from whatever quarter and for whatever motive, and will do so vigorously. There is no gagging order, no smoking gun, no conspiracy just a local council working hard for the people of Rossendale. 

Statement from the Chief Executive – As Chief Executive of the Council, a post I have held since April 2023, I am focused on the reputation and integrity of this organisation and the Valley, while ensuring that the Council’s agenda is progressed.  

This means driving positive change, and the successful delivery of our vision to have a thriving economy, built around our changing town centres, creating a quality environment for all and improving the life chances of all those living and working in our borough.  

Our connections, relationships and collective ambition in Rossendale are stronger than ever before.  The positive profile of the Valley and the dedication and hard work of the council workforce, most of which are residents, to deliver great services are hugely supporting this.  

The Council has worked hard, together with partners to develop a pipeline of projects, attracting and bidding for investment of over £40m to support regeneration and growth in the Valley, whilst also working with residents and partners in addressing wider health and well-being priorities, including the challenges of homelessness and the cost of living crisis.  

The ongoing actions of the MP are having an impact on the reputation of both the council, its workforce and the wider Valley.  Intimidation in public life in nothing new but addressing intimidatory behaviour matters.  I do not accept intimidation, and these recent attacks in Parliament and in the media, including social media, have undermined what should exist - mutual respect. I'd ask the MP to focus his energy on building constructive working relationships with the councils in his constituency rather than constantly criticising them. 

We are in a good place, despite limited resources.  I don’t wish to see this put at risk.  

Rossendale Borough Council will not be commenting further on the matter. 

Published: Thursday, 28th March 2024