ADVICE received by Middlewich Town Council suggests it did not act unlawfully in investigating a former member – but that the probe was ‘procedurally incorrect’.

David Williams called on the council to investigate whether it acted lawfully with its December 2016 probe into his conduct, following a landmark legal ruling involving another town council.

But in a letter sent from town clerk Jonathan Williams to David, seen by the Guardian, advice given from the Cheshire Association of Local Councils (CHALC) suggests that ruling is not relevant.

The letter also confirms that the probe, conducted by external consultants, cost the council £1,312.

It said: “It was previously the case that if the complaint involved a member it should have been referred to the monitoring officer – although it is likely the monitoring officer would have then referred it back to the council for local rectification.

“The person concerned is no longer a councillor, therefore no further – or any – action can be taken with regard to conduct.

“The procedure is not ‘unlawful’ it was procedurally incorrect.”

David questioned if the probe was unlawful following the ruling of R (Harvey) v Ledbury Town Council 2018 – in which judges ruled that the council had breached the Localism Act 2011 by suspending the member despite not being advised by Herefordshire’s monitoring officer to do so.

Jonathan added: “I think the salient points are that the issue should have been referred to the monitoring officer, that the procedure was incorrect but not unlawful, and that the cost to the council tax payer was £1,312.”

A ‘part two’ meeting of the finance, policy and governance committee – held away from the press or public – discussing David’s case took place on January 28, and the minutes will be made available ahead of the town council meeting on February 18.

David said: “I’m pleased that he has found in my favour and hope the council will now do the right thing to correct past errors, acknowledge it got it wrong and ensure this kind of thing never happens again.”

CHALC is a body made up of officers and councillors which provides training and professional or legal advice to town and parish councils in the boroughs of Cheshire East, Cheshire West, Warrington, Halton and Trafford.