Yorkshire councillor received wages 15 months after leaving position pays money back in full

A borough councillor has been found to have breached the council’s code of conduct after receiving wages for 15 months after leaving her position on a pensions board.

Coun Sue Ellis

Councillor Sue Ellis, chair of the licensing board, was hauled in front of Rotherham Borough Council's standards and ethics committee sub-committee on January 18, 2021.

The Labour councillor for Wickersley was found to have brought the council in to disrepute following the hearing, which found that she had continued to receive payments from the council for her position as chair of the South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, 15 months after leaving the role.

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Although Coun Ellis left the position in May, 2019, she continued to reveive an alleged £600 per month wage until August, 2020.

The complainant, Coun Allen Cowles, leader of Rotherham Democratic Party Group, told the hearing of the telephone calls and emails from the public about the “unacceptable behaviour” of Coun Ellis.

He added that he raised the complaint with the standards and ethics commitee after Labour had not taken action, and that although the finance team had issued an apology for the error, the council was not soley to blame.

Coun Cowles said that he found it “hard to accept” that Coun Ellis did not notice that she was receiving £600 more than she should each month.

Coun Ellis told the hearing that the complaints against her were “politically driven”, and questioned whose responsibility it should be for ensuring correct payments were made to councillors.

Coun Ellis added that the family lived from her partner’s salary rather than relying on funds from an elected position, so it was left to build up and was only used for university payments or supplement as retirement pension.

She added that she had “no cause to monitor the account”until the overpayment was drawn to her attention.

A report following the hearing states: “Action had now been taken to ensure appropriate monitoring of her own and the family’s financial position and monthly statements were now being received. Once the issue had been brought to [Coun Ellis’] attention she had, without delay, paid the amount back in full.”

A series of sanctions against Coun Ellis were agreed at the meeting, including censuring her and reporting the findings to full council.