Riddle as top council officer is suspended

PUBLISHED: 12:13 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 13:18 06 May 2010

A TOP St Albans District Council officer has been escorted off the premises after being suspended from his duties. Mike Ridley, who had headed the department of environmental services, is believed to have worked at the council for well in excess of 20 yea

A TOP St Albans District Council officer has been escorted off the premises after being suspended from his duties.

Mike Ridley, who had headed the department of environmental services, is believed to have worked at the council for well in excess of 20 years.

But the council was remaining tight-lipped this week about the suspension although an independent inquiry is thought to be imminent.

A spokesperson for St Albans District Council refused to divulge any information about Mr Ridley's suspension saying: "The council will not comment on any aspect of individual cases".

It is not known whether Mr Ridley was given time to clear his desk but he was accompanied out of St Albans council offices three weeks ago - the day after the local elections.

After a reshuffle of council officers ordered by chief executive Daniel Goodwin, Mr Ridley had latterly served as the acting head of environmental and regulatory services while the post was being advertised.

He would have had to re-apply for the revamped role along with other applicants.

Labour group leader, Cllr Roma Mills, said: "I have worked closely with Mr Ridley over the years and always found him easy to work with. He was a robust character who always stood his ground."

Mr Ridley, who is in his late 50s and is believed to live in Hillingdon, was particularly prominent during the high-profile rows over deregulation of taxis in the district. He was very unpopular with cabbies who saw him as instrumental in wrecking the stranglehold they had over the number of licence plates available.

Former Labour councillor Malcolm MacMillan said: "He stood up to the cabbies. He was his own man and by no means a 'yes' man. I found him fair and even-handed."

Present leader of the council Robert Donald said the chief executive Daniel Goodwin, who joined the council in July 2006, spent a year preparing a report for a major restructuring of council posts.

He added: "Mr Goodwin's report, which sought to make the organisation more efficient, came to Cabinet and was subsequently approved by the council.

"During the course of this reshuffle which started in February, Mr Ridley's post was retitled and he was invited to re-apply for his post which is currently being advertised."

It is understood that Mr Ridley might have been made redundant should his job application have been unsuccessful.

Mr Ridley had for many years chaired the St Albans council branch of the civil servants union Unison.

Mr Nilan Cooke, regional officer for Unison, confirmed that he would be representing Mr Ridley throughout the course of the investigation and was optimistic of a satisfactory outcome.

Environmental services manager Andrew Robertson is currently deputising for Mr Ridley.

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