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Questions remain after inquest into death of Suffolk CC officer

The inquest into the death of David White, who was head of Suffolk County Council legal services, gave some insight into this human tragedy and found that he had committed suicide.

As with so many such deaths it is impossible to imagine the agonies which led David White, aged 55 and married with two children to take this course rather than another.

In a note found on the body he exonerated Andrea Hill, the council chief executive, from blame saying: “It is simply because I have been unable to cope with the demands placed on me.”

Statements read out at the inquest did provide new information. Eric Whitfield, former assistant monitoring officer who resigned a few days before Mr White’s death, spoke of the stress his colleague was under working on the council’s 30% budget cuts.

Four days before his death Mr White expressed fears that Mrs Hill was trying to unlawfully appoint staff to senior posts when it should have been done by a full council meeting.

He was “uncomfortable” about raising this with her.

He was also concerned about the libraries consultation which was being conducted on the basis that 15 libraries would remain when it had been decided that only eight would remain open.

If that last point is correct it leaves serious questions to be answered by some remaining senior officers and elected members of the council involved in deciding the future of libraries.

Many of those who would have know this have left. Andrea Hill, was cleared of allegations of bullying, but resigned with a substantial payment. Jeremy Pembroke resigned as leader of the council. Eric Whitfield and Graham Dixon, the director of resource management, who also resigned, leaving before Mr White’s death.

Roger McMaster, the head of the library service, who looked deeply uncomfortable the three times I saw him in consultation meetings, took the option of early retirement with a redundancy package.

Sue Morgan, the scrutiny officer’s statement said: “He [David White] was clearly concerned about what he was being asked to do by the chief executive.

“He was devoted to his work and I can begin to understand that his ethical beliefs and absolute desire to maintain the integrity of the council were being compromised.”

Inquest reports: East Anglian Daily Times, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, LocalGov.co.uk.



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