Edit: this article originally described Julian Saunders as a ‘UKIP-supporting blogger’. He has been in touch to advise that he is not a UKIP supporter.
Sandwell council leader – and delegate of right-wing MP John Spellar’s Brandhall Labour Club – Steve Eling has been slated for alleged leaks of sensitive information on political opponents to a blogger who regularly attacks the Labour-run council in the Labour right’s West Midlands stronghold.
He has also been criticised for telling the press, after being attacked by a Tory MP, that the council doesn’t use confidentiality agreements – even though one of his own family members was the beneficiary of one.
But Mr Eling has also been accused by the local blogger known as ‘The Sandwell Skidder’, Julian Saunders, of leaking sensitive information to him, including using a private email address for some communications.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Mr Eling yesterday with a set of questions about the claims made by Saunders, which include copies of emails – and extracts from WhatsApp discussions with Mr Eling’s then-right-hand man Richard Marshall.
The seven questions asked were:
- Why did you and Mr Marshall meet with the blogger, who has slated the council, yourself, other councillors and MPs and doesn’t even live within the borough?
- How did you come to release confidential information to the same individual?
- How he know about [former council assistant chief executive] Melanie Dudley’s exit prior to the information becoming public?
- Why was chief exec Jan Brittan and cabinet member Paul Moore copied in to emails from your council and private email addresses to Julian Saunders?
- Why was Mr Marshall not referred by you for suspension after being declared bankrupt?
- Who authorised private and confidential information about officers and Labour councillors to be released to and used by an anti-Labour blogger by Mr Marshall via WhatsApp – and why?
- Why did you send emails from a private email account to Sandwell Skidder with information about the employment status of officers before the employees themselves knew? That appears to be a serious breach of confidentiality.
Mr Eling responded to the email – but not to the questions:
Do not waste my time asking about this rubbish.
You should be challenging him not Labour Party members.
Challenges to a right-wing blogger pursuing his own political agenda are, of course, not really the point when a Labour council leader has allegedly been feeding him information.
Many people might consider the above questions to be legitimate matters of public interest. Mr Eling considers the issues ‘rubbish’ and asking about them to be a ‘waste [of] my time’.
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