THE Ledbury councillor who won a judicial review against the town council, after sanctions were imposed on her, says two official bodies, now raising concerns with the Government, are "misinterpreting" the court judgement.

Cllr Liz Harvey was accused of bullying staff, an accusation she strongly denied, and the court ruled that sanctions had been extended unfairly by the town council, without her being given a fair chance to defend herself.

The court also ruled that a Herefordshire Council Code of Conduct investigation, which cleared Cllr Harvey of wrongdoing, should have been taken into consideration by the town council, before it imposed sanctions.

But now the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and the Society of Local Councils (SLCC) have written to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Committee on Standards in Public Life and the Local Government Association to highlight their "concerns about a recent legal judgement".

Both NALC and the SLCC believe the judgement will make it more difficult for town councils to resolve disputes between councillors and their employees, because county councils will now, generally, be called upon to settle disputes and town council grievance procedures have effectively been superseded.

A statement from the body says: "This decision confines most complaints about councillors to the code of conduct process. Employees will now generally not be able to use their councils' grievance procedures if the subject of their grievance is a complaint about a councillor.

"It is also likely that matters which previously would have been dealt with within a council will take substantively longer when dealt with by a principal authority. This decision will impact on the corporate well-being of councils, and NALC and SLCC have therefore called for urgent talks to try and find a sensible way forward to ensure quick and fair resolution of disputes."

But Cllr Liz Harvey accused NALC and the SLCC of misinterpreting facts.

She said: "It appears that both NALC and the SLCC have chosen to ‘misinterpret’ what appears to now be being called ‘The Ledbury Judgement’.

"If members of staff wish to raise a grievance against their employer – that has always been able to be done, and still can be. What cannot happen is for either a member of staff or a council to seek to use the grievance process to formally determine a complaint made against a councillor."

Cllr Harvey added: "If a parish council chooses, it can use a grievance process as the means by which to informally investigate a staff member’s complaint against a councillor. What it cannot do is use it to formally investigate a councillor’s behaviour and then to set sanctions against that councillor. That’s where Ledbury went wrong.

"Sanctions can only be implemented when they have been recommended by the Monitoring Officer of the senior authority, following the upholding of a complaint which has been formally investigated by that authority."

Cllr Harvey said: "I do hope NALC and SLCC are not trying to re-muddy the waters on this subject, in an effort to avoid taking responsibility for the incorrect advice they and the Herefordshire Association of Local Council provided to Ledbury Town Council during councillors’ mishandling of the staff complaints. That would be most unfortunate."

In 2015, the then town clerk complained that she had been subjected to bullying by Cllr Harvey. The deputy town clerk made similar claims, but Councillor Harvey refuted the accusations.

Following a grievance process, however, the town council in May 2016 upheld the complaints against Cllr Harvey.

But a separate Code of Conduct investigation, carried out by Herefordshire Council, ruled that Cllr Harvey had not been in breach of the Code: which governs how councillors must treat others, and which specifically mentions bullying as one example of a Code of Conduct breach.

The judge at the judicial review, Justice Cockerill said that Ledbury Town Council should have taken this ruling into consideration.