Scillies' council chief Philip Hygate is suspended
An under-fire council supremo has been suspended by councillors following six months of relentless pressure.
Philip Hygate, chief executive of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, appeared in front of a meeting of senior members called together yesterday.
The powerful officer, who has been at the helm on Scilly since 1990, has spent much of the summer at the centre of allegations over his role in the suspension of Bryce Wilby, the former head teacher of the only school on the islands.
One islander hailed yesterday's decision as a turning point for local government on the archipelago.
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"Philip Hygate has always seemed to have a high level of control over the authority on Scilly and I think that will now begin to crumble.
"I can't see him coming back after this."
In a statement issued on the nose of 5pm, the Council of the Isles of Scilly said the suspension did not "constitute disciplinary action and is a neutral act" to allow an investigation.
"To facilitate this process the Chief Executive has been suspended from duties with immediate effect," said the statement.
The top council officer on the Scilly Isles is likely to face scrutiny after an investigation was yesterday ordered into his conduct.
Philip Hygate was suspended from his £110,000 post as chief executive following a behind closed doors meeting of senior councillors.
The decision was described as a “neutral act” to allow an inquiry.
However, it comes on the heels of a tumultuous period in which Mr Hygate has been repeatedly questioned over his part in the suspension of Bryce Wilby, the former head teacher of the islands’ only school.
Fran Grottick, of the community group HEART of Scilly, welcomed the inquiry.
“Our group name stands for Honesty, Ethics, Accountability, Respect and Transparency in local governance.
“As such, we support our elected members on their decision to look at the serious allegations which have been raised.”
The debate of the council’s policy and resources committee, which had just one item, “staffing issues,” to discuss, began in public with Mr Hygate’s lawyer, Peter Keith- Lucas, questioning the authority of the meeting and suggesting members could be acting unlawfully.
However, chairman Amanda Martin refuted the claim saying legal advice had been sought and the meeting then moved into private session lasting four hours.
In a brief statement issued afterwards, the Council of the Isles of Scilly said there was no question of disciplinary action, just a clearing of the way for an inquiry.
“Following careful consideration of all available information the Committee agreed that the allegations warranted further investigation by a Designated Independent Person.
“To facilitate this process the Chief Executive has been suspended from duties with immediate effect.
“This suspension does not constitute disciplinary action and is a neutral act.”
As well as the role of chief executive which he has held for 22 years, Mr Hygate is the council’s returning officer, monitoring officer investigating complaints and is responsible for dealing with Freedom of Information Act requests.