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Broads Authority ‘sanction’ councillor who asked about Whitlingham Country Park contract end

PUBLISHED: 08:36 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:36 18 December 2019

James Knight, (inset) South Norfolk's representative to the Broads Authority, has claimed he is being

James Knight, (inset) South Norfolk's representative to the Broads Authority, has claimed he is being "persecuted". Pictured, Whitlingham Country Park. Photos: Lydia Taylor/Archant

Archant

A councillor who queried the end of the Whitlingham Country Park management contract has claimed he was “sanctioned” by the Broads Authority over the questions.

James Knight, South Norfolk's representative to the Broads Authority, has claimed he is being James Knight, South Norfolk's representative to the Broads Authority, has claimed he is being "persecuted". Picture: Archant

In October, the owners of the park, which is part of the Norfolk Broads, ended a 25-year management contract with the Broads Authority (BA).

And now a councillor has claimed the organisation has banned him from speaking to staff, after he and two other councillors questioned the move.

James Knight, South Norfolk Council's representative to the Broads Authority (BA), claimed the organisation had "persecuted" him after he was banned from contacting or emailing staff.

But the BA said Mr Knight's comments were related to a separate incident, and said the contract's end came as "a surprise and disappointment".

Whitlingham Country Park. Photo: Lydia TaylorWhitlingham Country Park. Photo: Lydia Taylor

At a full council meeting on Monday, December 16, Mr Knight claimed residents were being "disadvantaged" by the change.

The Conservative member said he had posed "serious questions" to the BA and asked to meet the chairman to discuss the issue.

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But he told council confidential emails had been sent to the BA's chief executive, and said: "As a result, a member of staff made an allegation of bullying and harassment against me.

"The BA's HR department imposed a sanction against me, to prevent me from speaking to any member of staff or sending emails for the next four months."

He added: "South Norfolk is being disenfranchised as a result of perverse and unconstitutional behaviour by the authority."

He urged councillors to "demand they should cease and desist their persecution".

A motion calling for the BA's chief executive and chairman to explain their actions to the council, was passed unanimously.

A BA spokesperson said: "The decision made by the trustees of the Whitlingham Charitable Trust to end our partnership came as a surprise and disappointment.

"All Broads Authority Members, including Mr Knight, received a detailed briefing about the decision at the last meeting.

"It appears Mr Knight has made comments during a public meeting regarding a separate ongoing, internal matter. The authority cannot comment in accordance with our HR policies.

"The authority has requested a meeting with the chief executive and leader of the council and are awaiting confirmation of a date."

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